When the word “blizzard” or “heavy snow” gets thrown out by the weather forecasters people run to the store for essentials like bread and milk. For an addict that means stocking up on drugs or alcohol.
Just before the Blizzard of 2015 there was one fatal overdose in Winthrop. When the snow came down seven people in Revere were saved with Narcan.
As non-addicts, most people get a little nervous with a storm coming. People make sure things are in place – food, gasoline, shovel, ice melt, etc.
“An addicts’ brain is chaotic and it’s difficult to think rationally,” said Kim Hanton, director of addiction services at North Suffolk Mental Health Associates. “If a person feels like they’re going to be stuck or have no access, addicts are going to buy more and use more.”
For people who have not used drugs in awhile, starting again can certainly be the kiss of death. Many who start using again for whatever reason end up overdosing. Experts have found with heroin users that they end up injecting the same amount they used prior to quitting. It is a dose far too high.
Pat Milano, of CASA for Community Health, said the highest risk group for overdosing are those who recently left detox or prison. She explained that 70 percent of all reversals (when someone is injected with Narcan) occurs among the actively using population.
“They don’t know when to stop.” Hanton said. “There’s no shut off valve.”
In addition, officials are seeing heroin mixed with fentanol and there is also a type of heroin going around that is higher in purity, Hanton said.
“It’s definitely a problem period and we are trying to provide more resources,” said Milano. Milano will soon be leaving CASA for a move to Florida, but they have been interviewing for a recovery coach to come on board. “We hope to have someone in by March.”
Now Gov. Charlie Baker has said he will cut $5 million which will include funding for substance abuse counselors. Meanwhile, Attorney General Maura Healy has made the problem of opiate and prescription drug abuse a top priority. She has already expressed concern over the cost of Narcan which now costs $40 per injection.
Narcan reverses the effects of opiates. It is carried by first responders. Family members and loved ones of actively using people can also get it. One place is at the Revere Cares drop-in center at 256 Beach St. In Winthrop there is also a Narcotics Anonymous meeting every Sunday night at 7 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Milano said she hopes Baker abides by the words in his inaugural speech that opiate and prescription drug abuse is going to be one of his main focuses.
“We can do more with prevention,” Milano said.
Sue Ellen Woodcock can be reached at [email protected].