Drug task force offers Narcan training at Venango College

Members of the community met with a panel to discuss and train how to use Narcan, an opioid overdose reversal medication in Rhoades Auditorium at Venango College. The session was hosted by the Venango County Rehabilitation Club. The panel included (from left) Bonnie Summers, Rick Orlowski, Heidi Boitnott and Shane Judy. (By Drew Frye)

Venango County Drug Overdose Task Force held a Narcan training demonstration Tuesday evening in Venango College’s Rhoades Auditorium showing the public how to administer Narcan in the chance of an accidental overdose.

The training included a panel explaining ways to reduce the risk of an accidental overdose, how to identify symptoms of an overdose, how to administer Narcan and also provided information about substance abuse treatment services available in Venango County.

Narcan is a prescription medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose. It is also considered an opioid antidote.

Research has shown that with basic training, non-medical professionals, such as friends, family members or even concerned bystanders, can recognize when an overdose is occurring and administer Narcan to the victim.

“Locally we have had several people die of overdoses within recent months,” said Bonnie Summers. “It is tremendous we have this available.”

Naloxone or Narcan, works within minutes to restore breathing in people overdosing on opiate drugs by blocking opiate receptors and essentially reversing the effects of opiate drugs, such as prescription pain medications and heroin.

Naloxone is a non-narcotic and non-addicting prescription drug.

It cannot be used to get high; however, for someone who is under the influence of opioids, it can trigger safe but sudden and sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms.

“There is a stigma against Naloxone, but this is a basic human service,” said Shane Judy, a Franklin pharmacist. “This is literally just an antidote.”

The training meeting allowed members of the community a hands-on training session in administering Naloxone to family or friends who may be battling addiction.

In 2014, Act 139 went into effect to allow Naloxone to be prescribed to a third party, such as a friend or family member.

Members of law enforcement and firefighters can also administer the drug.

In addition, it provides legal protections for witnesses or good Samaritans seeking medical help at the scene of an overdose.

“The Center for Disease Control considers overdoses an epidemic in the U.S.,” said Heidi Boitnott, unit director of the emergency department at UMPC Northwest in Seneca.

The Venango County area has seen a spike in heroin use in recent times.

“Getting people better and getting them treatment is so important,” said Rick Orlowski of Family Service and Children’s Aid Society. “Drug addicts are often not bad people, they just need direction and people willing to help.”

“I believe this is a crucial step in the right direction,” Orlowski added.

“We are very fortunate to have this task force in our county,” said Venango County Commissioner Chip Abramovic. “This is not just a county issue but a state and nation-wide epidemic.”

“It is great to have these sessions, so thank you from the county,” he added.