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New York State’s 911 Good Samaritan Law

The New York State 911 Good Samaritan Law allows people to call 911 without fear of arrest if they are having a drug or alcohol overdose that requires emergency medical care or if they witness someone overdosing.

Learn more here.

First Steps

It takes a lot of courage to seek help for a drug problem. However, treatment does work, and people are recovering from addiction every day. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction's powerful, disruptive effects on brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.

Source: Drugabuse.gov

Alcoholism, drug dependence, and addiction, known as substance use disorders, are complex problems. People with these disorders once were thought to have a character defect or moral weakness; some people mistakenly still believe that. However, most scientists and medical researchers now consider dependence on alcohol or drugs to be a long-term illness, like asthma, hypertension (high blood pressure), or diabetes. Most people who drink alcohol drink very little, and many people can stop taking drugs without a struggle. However, some people develop a substance use disorder—use of alcohol or drugs that is compulsive or dangerous (or both).

Source: “What is Substance Abuse Treatment?

Common Myths

MYTH: "Addiction only happens to certain kinds of people."
REALITY: Addiction can happen to anyone, no matter their race, upbringing, personality type, or grade point average. Genetic, social, and psychological risk factors, and early use, can put some people at greater risk, but the potential exists for anyone.

MYTH: "If you have an addiction, you just don’t have enough willpower."
REALITY: If you are living with an addiction, it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It simply means you might need help. Treatment providers and recovery support communities are local resources that can help you find hope and recovery.

MYTH: "Addiction medications are just replacing one addiction with another."
REALITY: Medications for addiction, including for opioid use disorder, have been proven to save lives and substantially improve recovery rates. Medications don’t create a high or cause impairment—they allow patients to work, drive, care for their families, and live full lives.

MYTH: "People who are addicted to drugs are bad people."
REALITY: People with a drug addiction might be moody, have memory loss, or even have trouble thinking and making decisions. This is because of the changes in their brain from the drugs. It does not mean someone is a bad person.

MYTH: "People with addiction are hopeless."
REALITY: People can and do recover from addiction. In fact, millions of Americans are thriving in recovery right now.

MYTH: "People have to hit “rock bottom” before they can get well."
REALITY: This simply isn’t true - and it’s dangerous. The longer a person waits, the more their addiction advances. People who get help before their illness is so severe have more resources to draw upon to help them successfully recover. So the sooner someone gets help, the better.

Sources: Drugabuse.gov, Shatterproof.org, WeFaceItTogether.org, TheRecoveryVillage.com

Signs of a Problem

Symptoms

People with drug problems might not act like they used to. They might:

  • change their friends a lot
  • spend a lot of time alone
  • choose not to spend time with family and friends like they used to
  • lose interest in their favorite things
  • not take care of themselves—for example, not take showers, change clothes, or brush their teeth
  • be really tired and sad
  • have changes in eating habits (eating more or eating less)
  • be very energetic, talk fast, or say things that don't make sense
  • be in a bad mood
  • quickly change between feeling bad and feeling good
  • sleep at strange hours
  • miss important appointments
  • have problems at work or at school
  • have problems in personal or family relationships

It’s hard for people with an addiction to stop taking the drug on their own. They might try to stop taking the drug and then feel really sick. Then they might take the drug again to stop feeling sick. They might need help to stop using drugs.

Source: Drugabuse.gov

Recognizing unhealthy drug use in family members

Most people who are addicted to drugs can't stop using them just because they want to. Without drugs, they will often feel very sick. They won’t feel better until their bodies and brains stop craving the drugs. Some medicines can make it easier to stop using certain drugs without feeling sick.

But getting a drug out of a person's system is just the first stage of treatment.

People with a drug addiction often stop taking care of themselves and their responsibilities. They focus on getting and using drugs.

People with drug problems might:

  • stop taking care of their family, their work, or their community
  • People with drug addictions might forget things that matter to them. They have trouble keeping promises.
  • stop taking care of their health
  • People with drug addictions might not eat or sleep well.
  • They might not clean their teeth.
  • They might not go to the doctor when they get sick. Their drug use might have caused other health problems.
  • stop enjoying the things that made them feel good

Source: Drugabuse.gov

Stages of Change

Harm Reduction

“Harm reduction can be described as a strategy directed toward individuals or groups that aims to reduce the harms associated with certain behaviours. When applied to substance abuse, harm reduction accepts that a continuing level of drug use (both licit and illicit) in society is inevitable and defines objectives as reducing adverse consequences. It emphasizes the measurement of health, social and economic outcomes, as opposed to the measurement of drug consumption.”

Source: The National Institutes of Health

Whether you want to quit using drugs or just regain some control, Evergreen Health is here for you. On a daily basis, our team provides clean injection equipment, Naloxone/Narcan® training, HIV and hepatitis C testing, counseling, medication, and most importantly, the respectful and dignifying care that you deserve. Our Harm Reduction Center team will help you be safe, improve your health and reduce the risk of overdose.

Source: Evergreen Health

Evergreen’s Syringe Exchange Program

We provide access to clean syringes and injection works through our free and confidential Syringe Exchange Program. We also provide safer injection information and education about wound care after injection drug use.

Source: Evergreen Health

Relapse Education

What is a relapse?

A person who's trying to stop using drugs can make mistakes, feel bad, and start using again. This return to drug use is called a relapse. Relapse is common and normal and happens to a lot of people recovering from drug addictions. People will often have one or more relapses along the way. It takes practice to learn how to live without drugs. Stopping drug use is like trying to diet and lose weight. It's hard to learn to do things differently, like eat less, exercise more, and avoid some favorite foods. It's easy to slip up, eat too much, and gain back the weight. But then you have to try again. It's the same with quitting drugs. People with drug addictions might get treatment, slip up, and then go back to treatment many times before it works. If that happens, the person should get back into treatment as quickly as possible.

Danger of Overdose

For some drugs, a relapse can be very dangerous—even deadly. If a person stops taking drugs and then takes the amount they used before quitting, they can easily overdose. Their body is no longer used to having the same amount of the drug in its system. An overdose happens when a drug causes serious, harmful symptoms or death. This is why it's important to take a treatment plan seriously. Treatment can help to lower the chance of a drug relapse and overdose.

Source: Drugabuse.gov

All About Overdose

Recognizing Opioid Overdose

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a person is just very high, or experiencing an overdose. The following will present some information on how to tell the difference. If you’re having a hard time telling the difference, it is best to treat the situation like an overdose – it could save someone’s life.

If someone is really high and using downers like heroin, or pills:

  • Pupils will contract and appear small

  • Muscles are slack and droopy

  • They might “nod out”

  • Scratch a lot due to itchy skin

  • Speech may be slurred

  • They might be out of it, but they will respond to outside stimulus like loud noise or a light shake from a concerned friend.

  • If you are worried that someone is getting too high, it is important that you don’t leave them alone. If the person is still conscious, walk them around, keep them awake, and monitor their breathing.

The following are signs of an overdose:

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Unresponsive to outside stimulus

  • Awake, but unable to talk

  • Breathing is very slow and shallow, erratic, or has stopped

  • For lighter skinned people, the skin tone turns bluish purple, for darker skinned people, it turns grayish or ashen.

  • Choking sounds, or a snore-like gurgling noise (sometimes called the “death rattle”)

  • Vomiting

  • Body is very limp

  • Face is very pale or clammy

  • Fingernails and lips turn blue or purplish black

  • Pulse (heartbeat) is slow, erratic, or not there at all

If someone is making unfamiliar sounds while “sleeping” it is worth trying to wake him or her up. Many loved ones of users think a person was snoring, when in fact the person was overdosing. These situations are a missed opportunity to intervene and save a life.

It is rare for someone to die immediately from an overdose. When people survive, it’s because someone was there to respond.

The most important thing is to act right away!

Source: Harm Reduction Coalition

Naloxone/Narcan

Safe Disposal of Drugs

At some point or another, there may be unused medications from a past illness or injury in the home. While it may be tempting to keep them “just in case,” there are some big risks to consider.

  • These medications are a significant poisoning risk for children and pets, who may mistake them for candy or other food.

  • A drug may be safe for one person, yet a single dose may be fatal for another person.

  • The medicine may expire, and not work the way it was intended to. It might even hurt the person taking it.

  • The drug might be intentionally misused or abused by teens, or stolen and sold by others.

  • Keeping extra medicine around can increase the risk of taking the wrong medicine, or too much medicine.

Safe disposal of prescription drugs, especially opioids, keeps everyone safer. There are anonymous, no questions asked drop boxes throughout the county. To locate one, click here.

For information on how to dispose of your medications from home, click here.

For information on how Prevention Works is helping local communities, click here

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