Billboards of Overdose Victims Raising Awareness
Author: Justin Mckibben
Seeing as how we live in a country that thrives off advertising (said the blogger, aware of the irony), it is good to see that more advertising is being utilized to save lives. Tragically high overdose death rates have become disturbingly common these days. The past few years the trend has become a terrifying reality seen all over America. People of all walks of life are dying every day from drug overdoses, meaning raising awareness has become more important than ever. Now one recent development has been designed to put a new face to overdose victims for all the public to see.
According to one report, the state of Utah has the fourth highest overdose death rates in all of the United States. Utah’s own State Department of Health has expanded on this report saying six people die every week from opioid abuse alone. This may come as a surprise, but the numbers for many states may surprise more than most.
In light of these statistics one group insists that these overdose victims could have survived if more people have the information and the access to the opioid overdose antidote Naloxone. Despite the fact that Naloxone has already been approved to be distributed without a prescription, still there are far too many Utah citizens who do not have the understanding and awareness to utilize it. Because of this underutilized resource, overdose victims continue to accumulate, and without interference this shows no sign of stopping.
In an assertive attempt to get the word out about Naloxone one organization has started to have billboards produced to show the faces of overdose victims who have lost their lives to their addiction, and who could have survived had the necessary treatment been on hand. Through grants and other funding utahnaloxone.org has new billboards plastered all over the state of Utah. Every billboard has a photo, every photo has a story and all these stories have at least one message in common- be ready!
One of these stories involves Dr. Jennifer Plumb, who is the Medical Director of Utah Naloxone. 20 years ago her brother Andrew Plumb died from an overdose, and according to Dr. Plumb,
“He was with friends who panicked and did not call 911, they were hoping he’d be breathing and he’d come back but he didn’t.”
Because of his friends’ fear and inability to act, Andrew lost his life. Because of tragedies like this Dr. Plumb sees that more people everywhere should be aware of how quickly someone can die from an overdose, and they should know how to react. Plumb has personally seen naloxone save countless overdose victims over the years.
Another advocate for raising naloxone awareness is Dennis Cecchini. His story is also a terrible one. His son Tenniyson was another overdose victim who died on his father’s bathroom floor with Cecchini’s wife trying desperately to revive him. These people had to watch their son die in their arms. Dennis stated,
“Quite frankly, I think he would have been alive if we had a naloxone to treat him.”
Stories like these are behind the faces that have been posted on billboards all across the state of Utah. Families are getting behind this effort to share stories of heartache, not as a scare tactic, but as a warning that people should be prepared and learn as much as they can on how to protect the ones they love if they can. Dennis Cecchini, holding back tears in an emotional interview, stated:
“I owe it to Tenniyson, I owe it to those people who are dying. We hope it will spur a lot of people to get it, keep using it, and to save their lives. You can’t get better unless you stay alive, you just can’t.”
That last part of his statement is probably one of the more powerful things people should let sink in. When we talk about naloxone and other forms of harm reduction some people still stand against it, saying these measures only give addicts an excuse or a safety net to keep using. However, any addict will tell you we don’t really need an excuse, but if you don’t stay alive you can never get better.
Driving down the road and seeing a sign that reminds you of the dangers a loved one might face every day will probably inspire you to do whatever you can to keep them safe. Even some addicts will take notice of these tragic stories of overdose victims and seek to get help or at least have that resource available to them.
Naloxone (Narcan) is a drug that helps to reverse the effects of heroin and other opioid drugs during an overdose. Naloxone has been proven time and again to save lives, but until recently only medical professionals could administer the drug inside the confines of a hospital. The opiate epidemic has led to increasing initiatives across the country expanding access to naloxone, using it as a tool on the front lines against opiate addiction.
About a year ago reports had shown that more than 100,000 overdose reversals were reported from 188 naloxone distribution programs in the United States, and that number has grown. So understanding more about the availability of naloxone and the value of this medication, hopefully more lives can be saved.
Powerful statements and progressive programs are helping reshape the way drug addiction is being addressed in America today. As we see more effort put into preserving life, we will undoubtedly see more lives being saved by addiction treatment and recovery programs.
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