The Story of Opioid Addiction and Overdose

The following story is true. The details have been changed to protect the patient’s confidentiality.

James was a long-time opioid user. He and a friend had been homeless and using fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid that is FDA-approved to treat severe pain related to surgery or complex pain conditions — daily for several months. They met with an associate outside a gas station, who said he had some fentanyl. They broke open and cleaned out a lightbulb so they could smoke the fentanyl. However, after James took his first hit, he fell unconscious. James was overdosing on fentanyl.

Thanks to the Joshua Ashley-Pauley Act (2015), which provides immunity for Arkansans who call for help during an overdose, people are more comfortable with calling the authorities whenever someone overdoses. Thankfully, bystanders called 911. The ambulance arrived in time to save his life. James was initially administered Narcan via a nasal spray and was transported to the ER. However, during the drive to the ER, the Narcan began to wear off and James had to be administered a second dose, as his overdose had started over. How does that happen? Opioids can last longer than the Narcan that is administered, and if subsequent doses are not administered the person will revert into a state of overdose.

Upon arriving at the hospital, James again began to experience symptoms of an overdose. He was administered a third dose of Narcan. The hospital wanted to admit him, but he declined. His friend showed up to pick him up; however, James could not leave yet as he still had to be processed. While he was waiting, he recalled that he bought two fentanyl pills. At that moment he realized that the second pill was still in his pocket.

James had essentially died three consecutive times. Had he not been administered Narcan, he would not have survived the overdose. However, instead of flushing the pill, James chose to sneak it to his friend who put it in their pocket so that once they left the hospital, they could get high again, which they did.

This story may sound shocking and outlandish. But these types of things are more common than you would imagine.

The Opioid Crisis in Arkansas

The opioid crisis is a serious problem nationwide, especially in Arkansas where opioid overdose has become one of the most significant problems facing our community to date. It has destroyed countless lives across our nation and in our local communities. A study from the CDC reported over 70,000 people died of an overdose in the U.S. in 2019.[1] The most updated numbers from the Arkansas Takeback website report that there was a 251% increase in fentanyl overdose deaths in Arkansas from 2019-2021.[2] The rate of drug overdose deaths was 21.6% in 2019. The site also reported “863 Arkansas families lost a loved one to fentanyl since 2014, which is likely low due to underreporting and pending cases.” Additionally, deaths involving opioids increased likely due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Sadly, Arkansas is currently number two in the nation for opioid prescriptions.  

Treating Opioid Addiction Through Medication-Assisted Treatment

With such staggering statistics, treating opioid addiction is becoming paramount. One treatment method is medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which involves the use of FDA-approved medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a robust and effective approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.

Related: Substance Abuse Recovery 101: Understanding Treatment Programs

At Lake Point Recovery and Wellness, our MAT program combines specialized medications such as Suboxone (a combination of Naloxone/Buprenorphine), Naltrexone, Vivitrol, and others with evidence-based counseling to aid people in learning recovery skills. These medications can prevent withdrawal symptoms and/or prevent the drug from being effective if they do relapse.

Cravings are a major part of recovery. Certain drugs such as Vivitrol will block the effect of opioids, while others such as Suboxone can reduce cravings, while also blocking any other opioid from being effective. The bottom line is MAT saves lives. Timothy Hughes, Director of Outpatient Services, said, “I have seen several clients stay clean while on these medications, patients who had frequent ER visits due to overdose before they started taking the medication. If our example from the vignette above, James, had been on a medication such as Vivitrol he would not have been able to endanger his life so severely.”

Lake Point Recovery and Wellness incorporates the option to engage in the MAT program while in our Residential Treatment and Outpatient and Intensive Outpatient Treatment programs. We will also accept clients using MAT services from other qualified and approved physicians. For many who struggle with addictions, withdrawals are the biggest barrier to recovery. MAT services can remove that barrier, enabling them to learn the skills needed to change their lives, or at the very least, prevent overdose until which time the person is ready to change.

If you or a loved one is looking to get help with overcoming opioid addiction, our MAT program may be the answer. You can learn more by calling us at 1-833-4HANDUP.




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