As the opioid epidemic has swept the country, myths and rumors have taken hold in communities affected by the crisis — including the Mille Lacs Band Reservation.
Several of those rumors and myths concern naloxone (brand name Narcan), the anti-overdose drug that has become widely available across the country.
Dr. Greg Braaten, pharmacist at Ne-Ia-Shing Clinic, has heard them all, and the main ideas he wants to communicate to Band members are these:
Don't be afraid to use naloxone/Narcan if you witness an overdose. You won't hurt the person, and you may save their life.
Call 911 immediately. Anyone who overdoses needs follow-up medical care, and once the naloxone/Narcan wears off in 30 to 90 minutes, an individual can "re-OD" from the drugs still in their system. Tribal officers have seen people "re-OD" here at Mille Lacs.
Dr. Braaten has heard the argument that Narcan is too expensive. He responds with a simple question: How much is a human life worth?
He has also heard people say that making naloxone available seems to justify drug addiction or make it safe for addicts to get high.
Dr. Braaten points out that overdoses can happen to anyone, including a grandmother who accidentally takes too much pain medicine or a child who finds a bottle of pills in the medicine chest.
Some varieties of opioids are so strong that a person can overdose just from touching them.
He also reminds us to be sympathetic to those who become addicted to drugs. "No one wakes up one morning and says, 'I'm going to become an addict,'" says Dr. Braaten. "That is something we all have in common."
Naloxone is now available for home use at many pharmacies around the nation.
The Band does not distribute naloxone for home use but has made it widely available throughout reservation communities.
Police, health care workers, and others have been trained in the use of naloxone, so don't hesitate to seek help from Tribal Police, your local clinic, or your community center.
But remember: Call 911 first!
Narcan Myths and Facts
Myth: Naloxone/Narcan has severe side effects.
Fact: Some overdose patients may be irritable or uncomfortable or may experience vomiting or a runny nose after naloxone is administered, but this is due to withdrawal from opioids and is not a side effect of naloxone. The effects of an overdose — brain damage or death — far outweigh any uncommon effects from administering naloxone.
Myth: You can develop a tolerance to naloxone/Narcan.
Fact: Naloxone works the same way the 100th time it is used on the patient as it does the first time. It may be less effective if a person has taken a stronger dose of opioids, but no tolerance develops.
Naloxone can lose its effectiveness over time, so you should always purchase it from a licensed pharmacist and make sure to have an up-to-date supply on hand.
Myth: Naloxone/Narcan can treat any drug overdose.
Fact: Naloxone is ONLY effective on opioids, including heroin, morphine, opium, methadone, codeine, oxycodone/Oxycontin/Percocet, hydrocodone/Vicodin, and opioid-like drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanil..
Naloxone DOES NOT WORK on benzodiazepines (drugs including diazepam, midazolam, or alprazolam), antihistamines (like pheniramine or phenergan), alcohol, or other sedatives (drugs such as phenobarbital) or stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines, including methamphetamine.
Myth: Naloxone/Narcan is just substituting one addiction for another.
Fact: Naloxone is not addictive and cannot make a person feel high. You cannot overdose on naloxone/Narcan.
Minnesota Law Protects Good Samaritans
You can't get in trouble for administering naloxone/Narcan even if you haven't been trained. Minnesota Statute 604A.04 states: "A person who is not a health care professional who acts in good faith in administering an opiate antagonist to another person whom the person believes in good faith to be suffering a drug overdose is immune from criminal prosecution for the act and is not liable for any civil damages for acts or omissions resulting from the act."
Neither the victim nor the person administering naloxone/Narcan can be prosecuted for drug possession or distribution if they are seeking medical attention.