Naloxone Gift to Fight Overdose Deaths | News, Sports, Jobs


News Photo by Julie Riddle Kathy Freel, Clinical Director of Alpena’s Sunrise Center, shows a tree where she hopes people who buy free naloxone next week will hang messages that will help people recovering from addiction.


ALPENA – A multitude of messages could help people kick their addiction to drugs or alcohol, hopes a recovery advocate.

Next week, staff at Sunrise Centre, Alpena’s inpatient drug rehabilitation center, will distribute boxes containing a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

The giveaway will coincide with International Overdose Awareness Day, celebrated daily on August 31.

The drug, naloxone – often referred to by a common brand name, Narcan – helps someone whose breathing has slowed or stopped due to an opioid overdose to wake up and keep breathing.

Last year, the center distributed 250 naloxone kits during an overdose awareness day.

Sunrise Center clinical director Kathy Freel ordered 350 kits for this year’s event and hopes to run out.

Those who pick up a kit can also write a note to hang on a tree outside the center, sharing words the writer would like to say to someone lost to an overdose.

Freel plans to collect these notes after the event and share them with center residents.

Perhaps the words will offer the encouragement needed to continue working on their recovery, she hopes.

“We just want to help save lives,” Freel said.

In 2021, doctors in the Alpena area reported 118 emergency room visits for overdoses, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

People with drug addictions or experimenting with drugs are at risk of overdose, but so are people with legitimate access to painkiller prescriptions who might misunderstand instructions or accidentally take an extra dose.

Anyone who spends time with other people, whether at a business or in a park, may one day encounter someone who overdoses. A ready naloxone kit could be what stands between that overdose and death, Freel said.

The drug is administered via a nasal spray which does not require any medical knowledge. According to experts, it only works for an overdose caused by opioids and cannot cause any physical harm if given when not needed.

Some, fearing the drug is causing more harm than good, argue that easy access to naloxone may actually lead to an increased risk of overdose. People who abuse drugs may believe that they can safely take large amounts of opioids as long as they have the drug that reverses the overdose.

Freel, who said she has never had to administer naloxone, said getting the drug into as many hands as possible means lives can be saved, and that must be her primary focus.

The gift of naloxone is just one of a wide range of supports a community must offer to fight addiction, Freel said.

Events such as a radiation clinic – held last week to help people hide their criminal records so they can find housing and jobs – and an upcoming driver’s license restoration clinic allow people who might struggling with addiction to follow positive pathways, she said.

Other recent efforts in the Alpena area — including the formation of a Families Against Narcotics group and Hope Not Handcuffs, an Alpena County Sheriff’s Office initiative that provides substance abuse help — bolster the work. courts, medical centers, health department officials, mental health social workers, social service agencies and others trying to address drug abuse.

People wanting to get a naloxone kit can be part of that circle, Freel said.

“The more supports you have in place,” she said, “the more likely you are to stay in recovery.”

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, [email protected] or on Twitter @jriddleX.



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