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'Red Alert' for opioid overdoses to stay in place for Jackson County, officials say

Jackson County Public Health says that its still seeing a high number of overdoses for a second week running.

Posted: Dec 30, 2019 11:11 AM
Updated: Dec 30, 2019 11:16 AM

MEDFORD, Ore. — A "Red Alert" issued by public health officials in Jackson County following an abrupt spike in opioid overdoses will stay in place, Jackson County Public Health announced on Monday. The agency said that the number of overdoses remained high for the second week in a row.

"It appears the current 'heroin' in our community is particularly potent or may be adulterated with fentanyl, and is an immediate risk to those actively using illicit opioids," officials said in a statement.

Law enforcement agencies and hospital emergency rooms have continued to report uses of the overdose-reversal drug Narcan.

During the first week of the Red Alert, public health officials said that there had been a death that was likely due to overdose, although the case remained unconfirmed. There were no additional "suspect fatalities" in the second week, despite the continued rash of overdoses.

Since the Red Alert began, nonprofit groups like Max's Mission have made a push to distribute free doses of Narcan — known generically as naloxone — to anyone interested in taking it. The treatment has become a pivotal tool in preventing overdoses from becoming fatal.

"We are encouraging people who use illicit opioids, such as heroin, to abstain from using the drug and seek assistance through drug treatment or medication-assisted treatment," Jackson County Public Health said.

The agency issued a number of tips for active drug users to consider:

  • Abstaining from drug use is the best way to eliminate the risk of overdose. Ask the person about their willingness to begin medication-assisted treatment or drug treatment. For a list of providers, you can access the Stay Safe Oregon website.
  • Those who haven’t used in a while may relapse and are at increased risk of an overdose. It is important to be aware of your tolerance and reduce the amount you might normally use.
  • Have an overdose plan; make sure someone can get to you when you use, and it is safest only to use when you are with someone you trust. Don’t use behind a closed door!
  • BE PREPARED. GET NALOXONE. SAVE A LIFE. You can get naloxone through these avenues: Any pharmacist in Oregon can prescribe naloxone for you. Anyone who can prescribe medication can send a naloxone prescription to your pharmacy. People who utilize the Syringe Exchange Program can receive free naloxone. Free naloxone is available through Max’s Mission community meetings and events.
  • It is important to call 911 when someone is overdosing from opioids. If you use naloxone, the effects are temporary, and the person still needs medical attention. Very potent “heroin” may require many doses. After the medication wears off, the person could fall back into a coma.
  • If you call police or 911 to get help for someone having a drug overdose, Oregon’s Good Samaritan Law protects you from being arrested or prosecuted for drug-related charges or parole/probation violations based on information provided to emergency responders.
  • It is important not to mix drugs because drugs taken together can interact in ways that increase their overall effect and increase your risk of overdosing.

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