Naloxone injection prevents overdose deaths: Special Report - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Naloxone injection prevents overdose deaths: Special Report

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Health officials are trying to get the word out about Naloxone, a medication that stop or reverse anyone from overdosing. They've started an awareness campaign on how to prevent, how to identify, and how to reverse an overdose.

Critics say Naloxone or "overdose juice," as it's called on the streets, makes it too easy for drug abusers to keep using.

Chelsea's little brother Alex Laliberte started using drugs when he was 12 or 13 years old. His sister says he'd smoke marijuana on the weekends with his friends. Then, that escalated to harder drugs in high school. By the time Alex got to college he was using prescription pills and methamphetamines and then he got hooked on heroin.

His parents saw what was going on but didn't want to know.

"You don't want to go through what we've been through," Chelsea says. "Losing Alex tore our family apart and it happens every day. They were like a lot of parents in denial of what they were seeing. No parent wants to think my child is using hard drugs no parent wants to think that their parenting wasn't enough and that their love and support and respect instilled in them wasn't enough."

Then finally, one Saturday night, two weeks before Christmas in 2008 after Alex came home, smelling like pot, his mother had had enough. She told him to sleep it off and be ready for tough love when he woke up.

20-year-old Alex Lailiberte died in his sleep.

"He did end up like kind of having that snoring sound—like it almost sounds like a choking but it's not--and that's like a really big sign of an overdose," Chelsea recalls.

Other signs include blue lips and nails, slow breathing, clammy skin and inability to talk.

17,000 people died of an overdose last year in the nation and 46 deaths occurred in Lake County. Health officials are bringing awareness to what's inside a vial that they believe can save lives and loved ones the pain of losing someone to addiction or prescription painkillers.

"Naxolon is a medication that has no other purpose except to reverse opiate overdoses," Susan McNight with the Lake County Health Department explains. "You can't get high off it. It stops or reverses an overdose."

McNight says Naxolone, when used from this vial and syringe, will reverse an overdose for anyone in two to five minutes with just one injection. The next step is to get that person to the hospital immediately.

Lake County officials are trying to educate as many people as they can to reduce the number of overdoses in the area. But, critics of Naloxone distribution say giving the medication to a friend to use is like throwing up their hands on drug abuse.

Researchers at Rush disagree.

"There are some concerns that it could be inappropriately administered," says Dr. Celeste Napier. "There also some concerns, that one who abuses heroin is aware of the fact, that I don't have to worry about overdosing and dying from taking too much heroin because I now have this pen with Naloxone that can save my life. There's no scientific data to suggest that is the case."

Chelsea lost her brother and she's made it her life's mission to help others.

"He really was this fun loving kid and so many addicts are," Chelsea says of her brother. "There's this misconception that addicts are derelicts or junkies in a back alley with needles in their arm and even so that's just not true. If we had known about that and knew the signs I think we would be in a different situation then we are right now."

Lake County health officials say the number of overdose deaths is second only to the number of people killed in car accidents.

Some kits cost about $6 with a prescription; other non-for-profit groups are giving these kits away for free after completion of a training session that last a couple of hours.

For more information on Naloxone: StopOverdoseIL.org.

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