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Study shows 1 in 10 Narcan recipients dies within 1 year

One in 10 Massachusetts residents revived by Naloxone die within a year. PHOTO BY SYDNEY MAES/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

A new study has found that about one in 10 Massachusetts overdose victims revived with Narcan died within one year, according to a presentation on the study given at a medical conference on Monday. 

Conducted by Scott Weiner, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the study used data provided by the Massachusetts Department of Health to track the records of 12,192 patients revived with Narcan between July 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2015, according to The Boston Globe.

The study highlighted the fact that while only 6.5 percent of patients died the day the opioid reversal drug was administered to them, 9.9 percent of those successfully revived died within the year, according to the Globe.

Stephanie Hartwell, a University of Massachusetts Boston professor in the College of Public and Community Service, said Narcan is part of the solution but not the complete long-term solution.

“We can’t take half-steps and half-measures,” Hartwell said. “Medicated assisted treatment as a whole is a great approach and Narcan is a piece of that approach, [it] stops the death from happening, but there needs to be other pieces to the story in terms of treatment.”

Hartwell said the continued use of revival drugs on overdose patients does not address the root of the crisis.

“You need to think about the causality of the drug issue and you need to think about the epidemiology,” Hartwell said. “If we constantly give folks Narcan as a solution you are not getting a longer-term solution for the problem.”

Maryanne Frangules, the executive director of Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, said the best way to stop future overdoses is by focusing on prevention.

“Prevention with the drug abusing community is probably going to be the best way for the long-term solution,” Frangules said. “We want to see people be able to not use in the first place.”

Frangules said Narcan is effective and a stepping-stone to stopping overdoses from happening despite the information provided by the report.

“We would like to see a hundred percent of the people not die but the fact that ninety percent of the people are still alive is very important,” Frangules said. “We don’t want to say it is not working because ten percent will die in the year.”

Matthew Hoffman, executive director of Boston Alcohol and Substance Abuse Programs, said Narcan can also be used as a long-term inhibitor.  

“Its primary use is an emergency measure for first responders and EMTs using it to bring people out of overdoses,” Hoffman said. “For a long-term release, it can be used to block some of the effects of the opioids which makes people less likely to use them, and that can be effective for some people.”

Besides the use of Narcan, Hoffman said he supports the installment of supervised injection facilities, legally sanctioned facilities where individuals can safely experiment with drugs under medical supervision, as one means to a long-term solution.  

Several Boston residents said they think education is the best method of preventing future overdoses from happening.

Michael Wong, 45, Back Bay, said future overdoses can be prevented by educating users and treating them.

“The best thing is treatment and education for those who are in danger of becoming addicted,” Wong said.

Fred Chin, 60, of East Boston, said people should be educated from an early age about the dangers of drugs to prevent them from using them.

“Teach children at elementary level and middle school level the harm of using drugs even like pot and teaching parents on how to prevent their children from doing drugs,” Chin said.

Rin Seo, 27, of Allston, said education and psychological help are key in addressing the overdose issue.

“They need education about it and mental treatment to solve their issues,” Seo said.

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