Prepping for overdose: Appalachian trail days kick off with opioid training

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In a move to decrease opioid deaths in the region, officials with the Virginia Department of Health are moving into the community to teach them how to reverse an overdose. 

Officials with the health department offered overdose training ahead of the Appalachian Trail Days festival in Damascus Thursday afternoon. 

Hikers were invited to the class, where they could learn more about opioids and naloxone, the drug used to treat opioid overdoses. 

“Unfortunately, we have a substance abuse crisis in our whole nation,” District Director Dr. Karen Shelton said. “Our rates of substance abuse have gone up very high across this nation and Virginia has seen these rises as well, and southwest Virginia has been impacted as well. This is just a community event where we can use this opportunity to educate people about opioids and about substance use and what they can do to help prevent an overdose and to save a life.”

Attendants of the hour-long class got hands-on experience for administering the drug, which officials handed out to anyone who needed it. 

Naloxone can be administered like an EpiPen, Shelton said, but the more common form of the drug is a nasal spray, which can be administered to a person who is overdosing on opioids. 

“For people to be able to come and to learn about how to recognize an opioid overdose, who’s at risk for an opioid overdose, and how they could possibly save their life through the use of Narcan,” she said. 

When someone overdoses on opioids, Shelton said, they stop breathing, which could result in death. Naloxone helps them begin breathing again until EMS arrives.

The health department’s Revive! program hosts community events throughout the state and includes information about how to treat an overdose as well as dispose of unused medication. The program will host another class at the Remote Area Clinic in Smyth County this weekend. 

Visit dbhds.virginia.gov for more information. 

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