Pandemic pushes naloxone usage in the state to all-time highs

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The pandemic shutdown has put extra stress on people battling substance abuse, and as a result, naloxone usage is at an all-time high in the state.

The drug is used to reverse an opioid overdose. State health officials are seeing an increase in Emergency Medical Service (EMS) calls. In 2019, less than 1% of EMS calls involved the usage of naloxone, but year to date that number is up to 1.5%. In fact, April saw the largest one-month distribution of naloxone to patients ever.

“We know that naloxone is often the only tool that provides individuals with opiate use disorder another chance at recovery,” explains Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, secretary of Indiana Family and Social Services.

So far in 2020, Naloxone has been used more than a thousand times in Marion County. Recovery advocates say the pressures of job loss and stay-at-home orders may be hurting people in recovery. With state-imposed limitations on social gatherings, it has forced recovery organizations to get creative. Justin Phillips, founder of Overdose Lifeline, says Zoom meetings have been successful for substance abuse recovery groups and their patients, but she admits some people need that face-to-face interaction.

“It’s really about neural pathways in the brain, and if I don’t have those new behaviors, those new patterns to deal with a stressful situation, I revert to my old patterns,” details Phillips.

The state is giving Overdose Lifeline $1 million to distribute 25,000 naloxone kits to people in need.

“From February until probably like two weeks ago, we had sent out across the state 300 plus overdose reversal kits to various people and entities,” says Phillips.

If you or a family member is in need of naloxone, you can email Overdose Lifeline, or head to their website and fill out a request form here.

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