Hoping to save lives

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Last September, Nassau became the first county in the state to be granted certification from the State Department of Health to administer an Overdose Drug Prevention Program. Since then, the county has held regular programs at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage, training residents in the use of Narcan, or Naloxone, an opiate-reversal agent that prevents deadly overdose. It can be administered through injection or nasal spray.

Linda Mangano, the wife of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, attended the press conference on behalf of her husband, and urged residents to take part in the county’s programs. “I never leave the house without [Narcan],” she said, adding that she was inspired to become certified to treat overdoses herself because of two family friends who have battled addiction.

According to Reynolds, studies worldwide have demonstrated the value of Narcan, but, he said, “The problem is, it’s not very available. So we can only give it out to families based on a prescription.

“Narcan has become increasingly difficult to get,” he added. “There’s a shortage of it. The price has gone up.”

LICADD holds bimonthly training sessions to certify residents in the use of Narcan. “Every time we do them, it’s standing room only,” Reynolds said, “because you have parents who are very concerned.”

Drugs: leading cause of accidental death

According to a comprehensive study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which compiled data from 1980 to 2008, poisoning has become the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., recently surpassing vehicular accidents. Nine out of 10 poisonings are drug-related, according to the study.

The CDC also concluded that death rates from overdoses in the U.S. have tripled since 1990.

Opiates are the drug of choice on Long Island, said Reynolds. Opiates, or opioids, are derived from opium — or synthetic versions of it — and are mostly used for pain relief. Examples include hydrocodone (sold under the brand name Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin and Percocet), fentanyl (Duragesic and Fentora), methadone and codeine.

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