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Drug Court, MetroHealth Put Lifesaving Overdose Drug in Hands of Opiate Addicts

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 7:34 PM

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As opiate addiction has risen, so have deaths from overdoses. There’s an antidote that can save users from an overdose, and a Cleveland court is launching an effort to get it into the hands of drug users. Ideastream’s Joanna Richards reports.

Some emergency responders and addicts’ family members have access to naloxone, the drug that counteracts an overdose from heroin and other opiates. Now, the Greater Cleveland Drug Court is distributing the drug to 33 of its defendants.

They’ll take home kits of naloxone to use in an emergency – for themselves or anyone else who might need it.

Drug Court Judge Anita Mays said she hears stories of overdoses too often. One of her court defendants recently had three friends die in a single weekend; a 21-year-old defendant said he’d lost six friends in the last year.

“And so, it’s such a devastating thing, and just to hear that information, we said we have to try to do something else,” Mays said.

The court has partnered with MetroHealth and other agencies to take advantage of state funding for the two-year program. The kits are going to court defendants who have relapsed and may be most at risk of an overdose. Users will have no legal repercussions for using the antidote.

Mays said she’s told participants, “This is not permission for you to use, but we understand that relapse is a part of recovery.”

Even in a program like Drug Court, which helps addicts to recover, overdoses are common, Mays said. A man about to enter the program died from an overdose just last month.
Mays says it often takes multiple efforts before users finally kick a habit for good. The court doesn’t want to see them die in the meantime.

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