On Wednesday, May 16, at 6 p.m., East Tennessee State University’s Gatton College of Pharmacy Generation Rx Committee, in collaboration with the Sullivan County Anti-Drug Coalition, Healing Hands Health Center and local activists from Young Appalachian Patriots, will provide free opioid overdose training for the community with the aim of teaching attendees more about naloxone and how to correctly administer it.
Naloxone is a prescription drug that has saved the lives of many who are on the brink of dying. Though increasing access to the lifesaving medication has often been considered controversial to some who believe it enables addiction, health care experts and activists in the region argue it is important to expand access and promote knowledge on how to use it in the midst of the region’s opioid epidemic.
“There’s no evidence to show people will use naloxone to abuse more drugs for a longer time. It’s a myth,” said Dr. Sarah Melton, an ETSU professor of pharmacy practice.
The event will be held at the Healing Hands Health Center, 245 Midway Medical Park, in Bristol, Tennessee.
From 2015 to 2016, drug overdoses in Tennessee jumped 12 percent, largely due to opioid abuse, now the leading cause of death for adults under 50. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, 1,631 Tennesseans died from overdoses in 2016, compared to 1,451 in 2015.
Some argue the numbers could be even higher due to inconsistencies in how localities investigate and report these numbers.
To turn the tide around, Melton said she and others have worked in recent years to provide naloxone to people throughout the region and educate them on its use, holding similar events throughout the region.
“We are in the epicenter of the opioid overdose epidemic, so we want to provide community outreach to as many people as we can to teach people how to use naloxone,” Melton said.
Since its inception more than a year ago, naloxone outreach has been a priority for the Young Appalachian Patriots, according to Jason Von Kundra, the organization’s addiction recovery committee chairman.
“Drug abuse plagues our community with too many lives ruined, including my family, friends and co-workers,” he said. “I put my hope in people who have had enough that are coming together for real solutions to save lives, provide resources and build the addiction recovery movement that is growing.”
In addition to the education aspect of the upcoming event, Melton said the Sullivan County Anti-Drug Coalition will provide naloxone so that people will leave prepared.
“That’s a huge plus,” she said. “We’ll train people how to use it and they’ll go home with the product and be prepared.”
For more information on the event, call Melton at 276-971-6097.