Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rehab Unit Will Offer Drug for Overdoses

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rehab Unit Will Offer Drug for Overdoses

Article excerpt

Beginning next month, Gateway Rehabilitation Center patients with opioid addictions and their families will be provided with the overdose-reversal drug naloxone upon discharge if they enroll in a six-month research study.

The study is part of a larger, yearlong project to educate all Gateway patients with heroin and prescription drug addictions and their families about naloxone, an antagonist to opioids that reverses the respiratory problems that often kill overdose victims. The hope is to stem the epidemic of overdose deaths - 1,300 in Allegheny County since 2010.

Dr. Neil A. Capretto, Gateway's medical director, conceded that, at first blush, it may seem counterintuitive to give a person leaving rehab a means to counter an overdose. Instead, he said, it's a realistic attempt to save lives because relapses aren't uncommon and those who have them are more vulnerable to a fatal overdose because their tolerance is lower than it had been when they were using drugs.

"Just because someone buys a car with air bags and seat belts doesn't mean they're going to drive recklessly," Dr. Capretto said. "This will save lives and will keep alive the possibility a person will get into recovery and enhance their life. I really believe as long as there is life there is hope."

He noted there is no evidence that providing naloxone to people with addiction causes them to use drugs. There is some evidence to the contrary because it's a reminder how serious the consequences of drug use are and the effects of naloxone are similar to withdrawal, he said.

"It's realizing [a relapse and overdose] may happen and telling them ?We want you to live, we believe your life is important.' People then know you care about them."

Cara M. Renzelli, Gateway's vice president of research and clinical training, said the goal of the project she will head is to try to make sure that if there is a relapse and an overdose, it's not fatal. …

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