Monday, November 22, 2010

Ice, Ice, Baby or How Not To Treat an Opiate Overdose

James Mann's friend became unresponsive after consuming approximately 120mg of Oxycontin along with alcohol and marijuana.  Mann, a 20-year old Norcross, Georgia man, decided he would awaken him  Alas, while his heart was in the right place his judgment was fogged by 160 mg of oxycodone.  Thankfully, he was coherent enough to realize that he was in over his head after his efforts to rouse his friend failed.

When paramedics arrived on the scene, they discovered Mann's friend was indeed unconscious. He was also bleeding profusely as the result of injuries sustained when Mann had forced ice cubes into his rectum.  The victim was transported to Gwinnet Medical Center: Mann was charged with misdemeanor reckless conduct after police determined that his actions constituted "a gross deviation of standard care."

Mann's efforts to awaken his friend with Frosty the Enema may elicit some chuckles.  But many other opiate users labor under similar mistaken ideas.  It is quite common for users to throw ice water on an unresponsive friend, put them under a cold shower or throw them in an icewater bath.  But these methods will not bring a comatose user out of an overdose.  While the initial jolt of ice may cause gasping, it will not dislodge the opiates from their receptors.  Should the "treatment" persist it may cause hypothermia and shock, further complicating the situation.  Perhaps most important is the time which is wasted: when someone stops breathing a few minutes may be the difference between recovery and permanent brain injury or death.

If you are in the vicinity of an overdose, the best thing you can do is seek medical attention.  Unfortunately, many users do not receive aid - or receive it too late - because of heavy-handed law enforcement attacks on overdose victims and their companions.  One answer to this problem is "Good Samaritan" laws which protect those who seek medical treatment for themselves or their friends. Another would be ready availability of Naloxone, a powerful opiate antagonist which can reverse an opiate OD within seconds. But while these ideas have gained traction in a few areas, they still face resistance from those who equate harm reduction with encouraging drug abuse.

No comments:

Post a Comment