The opioid epidemic continues to grow. According to the latest data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.
Rich Walters knows all too well about those statistics… he is one. Walters had been struggling with opioid addiction and alcoholism since his early twenties and endured a long and hard recovery.
Rich Walters. Picture from Facebook.
“I was strung out on drugs and alcohol for 21 years and I found a way out,” said Walters.
He reached his breaking point when he overdosed from opioids and got a second chance because Narcan was administered to him.
“As a result of Narcan, I was given another opportunity to live,” said Walters.
Walters began his recovery through the support of his friends and family. He was motivated to become clean so he could be a good Father to his young son. Walters has been sober since April 28th, 2014.
Now he makes it his mission to speak and educate people about drug addiction and alcoholism. He also talks about the resources available to help addicts and his own personal struggle with his opioid addiction, in his role as a motivational speaker. He tours the country, “to give hope to the hopeless.”
Walters is also the National Marketing Director for Boca Recovery Center in Boca Raton, Fl. Through this job, he is able to reach out to many people who are struggling and get them the help they need.
According to Walters, he does this, so no one will ever have to experience the internal suffering he went through himself. He is extremely grateful that there is a drug like Narcan out there that can save a person’s life.
Medicine like Naloxone and Narcan are fighting back to lower the death rate of people overdosing from opioids. Many people struggling with addiction do not want to get help out of fear of judgement. Walters is trying to change this stigma and raise awareness of the recovery resources out there and how Narcan can save lives.
Narcan has been implemented in Monroe County by the Department of Public Health as well as the Brockport Police Department.
Brockport Police Officer, James Vandervort, has administered Narcan and says that more people need to learn how to administer.
“People need to understand that Narcan is a safe drug and there is nothing you can do to harm somebody,” said Vandervort, “it would be no different than giving someone who is dehydrated, a glass of water.”
Vandervort wants to raise awareness of this, so that less people are hesitant to administer Narcan and are more likely to help in a crisis.
“This day and age we are relying more and more on the public to respond to critical incidents,” said Vandervort.
Everyday citizens are often the first responders to someone overdosing and if they can administer Narcan before police arrive, the victim has a higher chance of surviving the overdose.
The Monroe County Department of Public Health has started to recognize the importance of citizens knowing how to administer Narcan and are hosting Narcan certification courses the last Wednesday of every month. The class is free to participate in. People who attend leave with two free doses of Narcan to carry with them in case they ever have to administer it.
The class is taught by Resident Nurse, Claire Herman. Herman says she wants to beat the stigma, that we should just let people who are overdoing die.
“I would like to see [Narcan] co-prescribed with every opioid prescription coming out of a doctor’s office,” Herman said
She has seen a lot of overdoses and opioid abuse as her time as an RN and is very thankful there is a drug out, like Narcan, that can give people a second chance at life.
“There is no other way to reverse an overdose. You can just prevent an overdose by not using. So it’s really the only drug of its kind, which is really impressive,” said Herman.
While Narcan is one tool in the battle against the opioid epidemic, until more resources and help become available to addicts, everyday more than 130 people die after overdosing on opioids.