The nation has declared war against the opioid epidemic, and like all battles, the people standing right in the front lines are the ones facing the risks too. Emergency personnel including health care professionals, doctors, nurses, and police officers, who are constantly in close contact with illicit drugs and opioid overdose victims, are suffering and need attention. Apart from the risk of unintentional exposure, they also suffer from mental illnesses due to their overwhelming responsibilities and demands of the job. They are increasingly exposed to drugs, which can enter the system simply by coming in contact with their skin.
There have been such cases where in Maryland, Harford County’s sheriff and two emergency medical technicians (EMT) received treatment for possible heroin and fentanyl exposure after they responded to a drug overdose. The possibility of how the drug entered their system baffled authorities. In another incident that happened in East Liverpool, Ohio, a police officer was rushed to the hospital after he brushed fentanyl residues off his uniform and allowed the drug to enter the system through his hands. These are serious concerns, as the first responders may not realize what harm the close contact with a drug overdose case may cause to them and their families.
Awareness among emergency personnel
The sudden appearance of new powerful drugs on the street is posing a serious threat not only to the users but also to those who respond to emergency calls. Fentanyl is said to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. The “elephant sedative” called carfentanil, one of the most potent opioids, is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl and the overdose can cause instant death. These drugs can get absorbed into the emergency service personnel’s bodies simply by touching or inhaling the residues.
Considering the risks to paramedics’ lives caused due to exposure to synthetic opioids, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has released the fentanyl handling guide for first responders in order to create awareness about the drug and the associated dangers. The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) has also included discussion topics surrounding the opioid epidemic in their upcoming Emergency Nursing 2017 conference. The epidemic will be discussed in four different sessions including the following:
- Opioid addiction and deaths spiralling out of control, where they aim to educate nurses on the emerging drugs in the street so that they are able to take the required measures to protect themselves.
- ALTO I – Alternatives to opioids – Intro to ALTO
- ALTO I – Alternatives to opioids – ALTO program implementation to cut down on the number of prescriptions and treating patients for pain without opioids.
- Opioid crisis and information system technology in the emergency department, where they will highlight the technology that can be used in emergency departments to better track patients who frequently ask for opioid prescriptions.
Like such initiatives, greater awareness is required to consider the risks associated with new and powerful drugs that are being introduced into the society at an alarming rate. As much as the victims need support, the safety forces need to be educated about the self-protection measures as well as the preventive mechanisms to safeguard themselves from coming under the influence of the harmful substances.
Opioid addiction is treatable
Those who are caught in the vicious cycle of opioid addiction not just harm their health and life but also of those who come in contact with them. Sometimes, carelessness in storage or disposing off the drugs can lead to accidental misuse by family members. Users need to be aware of the risks and seek professional help at the earliest. Incidents like emergency personnel being exposed to opioids’ effects is a matter of grave concern. The lesser common people are addicted, better chances will be there for their improved health, and less risk for others.
If you know someone addicted to opioids, the Florida Prescription Addiction Helpline can help you connect to evidence-based prescription drug rehab centers in Florida that provide customized treatment to suit patients’ needs. Call our helpline (866) 292-3211 or chat with a trained professional to know about the best drug treatment centers in Florida.