Librarians now take on the role of first responders in drug overdoses as the United States continue to grapple with an opioid epidemic.
Librarians In At Least 3 US Cities Trained To Use Drug Overdose Antidote
In at least three cities namely Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, library staff members now know or are about to learn how to use naloxone, more popularly known for its brand name Narcan, a drug used to reverse overdoses.
The training comes with rise in the number of opioid users and an increase in overdoses in libraries, which are not just repository of books but also serve as a hub of services in impoverished communities and a go-to place for homeless people during the day.
Libraries See Deadly Drug Overdoses
Over the past two years, some libraries have become sites of deadly drug overdoses. As the so-called drug tourists flood in Kensington, Philadelphia, claimed to have the purest heroin in the East Coast, heroin users shot up in the library's bathroom, which has been the site of nearly half a dozen overdoses over the past 18 months.
Marion Parkinson, who oversees libraries in North Philadelphia including McPherson Square Library, said that the problem has become so bad last summer that McPherson library, which sits in a neighborhood laced by drugs and poverty, was forced to close for three days due to needles clogging the library's sewer system.
People who use the library's bathroom now have to show their ID to monitors who record their names and enforce a time limit on bathroom use. Prior to this though, a man was found in the bathroom with a needle in his arm convulsing. A dose of Narcan was at the library at the time but the staff did not know how to use it.
Librarians Helping Save Lives
What transpired prompted Parkinson to get library employees trained to use the drug for reversing overdose.
One of the employees at the McPherson library, Chera Kowalski, has learned how to reverse opioid overdose with Narcan. She now switches from librarian to medic when somebody overdoses at or near the library. Kowalski has already saved six lives since April.
"That's a lot for a librarian," said library guard Sterling Davis.
Opioid Epidemic In The US
Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 91 Americans die every day due to opioid overdose. CDC also said that drug overdose and deaths linked to opioid continue to rise in the country. In just 15 years from 2000 to 2015, more than half a million people in the United States died from drug overdoses, majority of which involve an opioid.
Naloxone has been green-lighted by the FDA in 2015. Health authorities hope that making opioid overdose antidotes more widely available can help save lives.
"Naloxone is non-addictive, and expanding training on how to administer the drug can help basic emergency medical service staff reverse an opioid overdose and save more lives," CDC Senior Health Scientist Mark Faul said.