Online courses teach opioid overdose treatment before ambulances arrive

In an effort to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic, the American Heart Associated is providing online courses on how to care for victims of a national health crisis that's claiming the lives of over 47,000 people a year.

"This is the single largest epidemic that I've ever seen," said Kolby Miller, CEO of Medstar Ambulance. "It's not one type of patient. It's not one area. There's no way to define the opioid epidemic."

It's a major problem that many first responders in metro Detroit deal with -- now, several times a day.

"Sometimes we'll have a truck that will go out and run three back-to-back overdoses," Miller said.

The American Heart Association launched two online courses to teach first responders and healthcare workers, as well as the public, not only to recognize signs of an overdose but also what to before that ambulance arrives.

Miller said having naloxone or narcan , which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, on hand is a good start. So, he asks, why not learn more? 

"Having people prepared and aware, and capable of responding in those first couple of minutes is one of the only ways we're going to get through it," he said.

To put this in perspective, Miller said in this service area, one city had 20 overdoses in just two days. People died in nine of those situations. 

"We estimate, working with our law enforcement partners, that it was one bad batch of heroin that went around town over the course of a weekend," he said.

Miller said he can't help but wonder how many more of those people could have been saved.

"As short and simple as that training is, having that training makes in instinct that we jump in, open their airwaves, and make sure they're breathing," he said.

The online courses are available to anyone and the cost: is $20 for healthcare providers and $10 for the public.

"If somebody truly believes that they don't know anybody who has a drug problem, I would respectfully tell tem that they're wrong. They do know somebody who has a drug problem. They just don't know it."

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