Drug abuse and overdoses are a very discussed topic right now. There is currently a perception that it is becoming more prevalent and through all walks of life — including celebrities like Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Along with other communities, there is a greater concern within Long Beach. I commend our local government and officials for addressing it directly from many different angles and utilizing multiple disciplines. I’ll leave the legal implications of drug abuse and overdoses to the police department, and the social service perspective to the drug counselors and mental health experts.
But I’d like to offer information and my opinion from the viewpoint of an emergency responder, focusing on the medical aspect of these events. As being one of the many advanced EMTS with the Long Beach Fire Department, it is my duty to treat and transport a person suffering from an overdose or drug abuse-related event. Right now there is a spotlight on opioid-based overdoses related to heroin, fentanyl and many prescription pain narcotics.
Opioids are not the only type of overdose. There should always be a concern for all forms of drug abuse. It can include Illegal drugs, over-the-counter or prescription medications. Improper use and mixing medications may lead to unhealthy and dangerous effects on the body.
A drug overdose can come from many different causes, whether it be intentional or unintentional. It is always best to initiate medical help immediately and not judge a person or cover up the event. Steps to be taken include recognition, calling for help, supporting the person’s breathing and circulation and, if available, use a reversal medication, and make sure the person gets definitive care.
I believe that education, awareness and prevention are the best tools to limit these abuse events. But if one does occur, it is imperative that you have immediate and appropriate interventions by trained personnel.
Here are a few examples of drug overdoses and side effects: