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For one former firefighter in Florida, now in retirement, the job did not end with his last day of work. Instead, Luis Garcia is pulling money out of the bank to buy doses of naloxone, also known as Narcan, and handing them out to local businesses so they are on hand and available to save a life in the event of overdose.
Included among the businesses that Garcia has given naloxone doses are a dance studio, Publix, drug rehab centers, and even local WPTV Channel 5 West Palm Beach and Treasure Coast news crews. But he does not stop with handing out doses of the lifesaving medication. He also provides, free of charge, a 90-minute training in CPR, AED, and naloxone administration so the employees who have the naloxone doses on hand are confident in their abilities to intervene if they see someone they suspect is in the midst of an overdose.
Garcia is a rare warrior in the fight against addiction in that he has never struggled with addiction himself, nor has he lost anyone to an accidental overdose. As a firefighter, however, he saw the rates of opiate overdose continue to rise. Though his retirement date was five years ago, even then, the overdose rates were high enough to drive him to formulate his retirement plan.
Says Garcia: “People too young are dying. They’re too young to die. I felt helpless hearing about all these increasing opioid overdoses … so I just want to be able to help save lives.”
Garcia’s plan is to buy as many as 400 doses of naloxone over the next year and disseminate them out into the community. He is actively soliciting local businesses to find those who would like to undergo the training and receive free doses of naloxone so they, too, can take action in the event of an unexpected overdose in their building, restroom, or parking lot.
If you own a local business and you would like to contact Garcia, or if you would like to follow what he is doing in the community, you can follow him on Facebook.
Additionally, Garcia told us: “I am a one man show and have purchased almost 250 dosages with my own savings and firefighter retirement pension. So, any help would be gratefully appreciated. Donations can be sent to me via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Naloxone is medication that can essentially reverse the effects of an opiate overdose when someone is experiencing a medical emergency as a result of taking too much of a drug like heroin, fentanyl, or opiate painkillers. It works by attaching to the opiate receptors in the brain, disrupting the action of the opiate in question and causing an almost immediate reversal of symptoms. It is a lifesaving medication when it is administered in time and correctly.
It is important to note, however, that naloxone is not a cure-all. It cannot reverse an overdose that is triggered by cocaine, crystal meth, or any other non-opiate drug. In some cases, when opiates are used in combination with other substances, if it is not the opiate drug that triggered the medical emergency, then naloxone will not be effective.
Also, if the person is living with an opiate addiction and naloxone is used to stop the effect of opiates in their system, they will likely “come out of it” and be in detox. This can be very uncomfortable, even painful, and many may feel inclined to go get high again right away in an effort to “take the edge off.” Unfortunately, this can translate into yet another overdose since naloxone wears off more quickly than the opiates in the system.
Additionally, with the increased presence of fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opiate, in street drugs, the rates of overdose are rising, and in many cases where naloxone is available and administered, more than one dose is needed. It is important to have multiple doses on hand just in case the person does not respond to the first dose.
Though naloxone can save someone’s life in the moment of overdose, it does nothing to address the addiction as a whole. Treatment is necessary via a comprehensive program that offers medical detox and therapeutic intervention that will help them to safely stop using all drugs and stabilize in recovery for the long-term. It takes time and it takes work, but surviving an overdose can be the catalyst that is needed to get that process started.