BENTON Joe Traylor, a lieutenant for the Saline County Sheriff’s Office, has experienced firsthand the importance of being properly trained to treat an opioid overdose.
In November 2017, he was trained how to administer naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, the drug’s brand name, in an emergency situation. And within a month, Traylor was put in a real-world situation where he had to use his training. At the Opioid Overdose Prevention Kickoff for Saline County at Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton on April 2, Traylor discussed the incident.
“I was on a traffic stop on Hilldale Road in Alexander, and I was the patrol supervisor at the time, and I overheard dispatch to an overdose call,” Traylor said. “Most of the time, in that situation, we are needed to secure the scene, so if there is a confrontation, the police are there to help.”
Traylor said he was a half mile away, so he responded with the other deputy.
“Oftentimes, we are on the scene before any other first responders, especially in the rural parts of the county,” Traylor said.
He said that when he arrived, there was a man who was in his early 20s who had overdosed on methamphetamine, because unknown to the man, the drug was also laced with fentanyl.
“The young man was unresponsive and was not breathing well,” Traylor said. “Having been through the training, I could easily recognize the signs, and after I administered the Narcan, within 30 seconds, he had shown signs of response to the drug. …
“… I kept him breathing until the paramedics arrived. That’s why a program like this is so vital, because it affects everybody and every part of our community.”
On April 2, University of Arkansas System Criminal Justice Institute Director Cheryl May said that based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, 70,200 people in the United States died from a drug overdose in 2017.
“In my mind, it’s our sons, our daughters, our sisters, mothers and fathers,” May said. “It is everybody. There is no socioeconomic barrier to what is going on.
“This is not something that just affects poor people — it crosses all socioeconomic barriers.”
May said anyone can purchase naloxone at a local pharmacy, and individuals who could potentially encounter someone overdosing are encouraged to carry the drug.
Dr. Ahmad Yousaf, the hospitalist and critical-care medical director for Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton, recalled a 49-year-old woman who had died from an overdose.
“She was a local businesswoman,” Yousaf said. “It was not your typical image of a drug user.
“She started on opioids after a hip fracture and later became addicted to the drug — like most do. We had to sit with her family and friends and try to explain that she was not breathing on her own, despite everything we had tried.”
According to information provided by the University of Arkansas System Criminal Justice Institute, the prescribing rate for Saline County is 92.7 opioid prescriptions per 100 residents each year. More than 110,000 opioid prescriptions were written during a 12-month period, nearly reaching the county population of 119, 323 residents. Opioids include fentanyl, heroin, and prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine, the information states.
May said that last week’s kickoff was important because this is not just one issue “that any of us can address alone.”
“Every member of our community has to step up,” May said.
She said these medications give relief from pain, but they can also mask the pain.
“Oftentimes, when people were taking pain meds long-term, their conditions would get progressively worse because they couldn’t feel it because they had become so reliant on the pain meds. In some cases, some were taking 20 to 30 pills per day and, by then, had built up a tolerance [for the drug],” May said.
“Like any drug abuser, you are trying to get back to that initial high you first had,” she said.
“We are going to have to start treating this addiction like it is a disease,” said Kirk Lane, Arkansas state drug director and former chief of police for the Benton Police Department.
“[When I started as police chief in Benton], it just overwhelmed me at how I could miss what was going on, how we could miss what was going on with prescription drug abuse,” Lane said, “not only in the county, but in the state and the nation. It became a passion of mine, the more I learned about it, what we needed to do and how we needed to fight it.”
Zack Parr, 22, who now lives in Bryant, said he has overdosed six times in his life. He said if it wasn’t for Narcan, he wouldn’t be here today.
“I’m from an awesome home and always went to good schools and made good grades,” Parr said. “I went to military school from sixth to 10th grade, and I lived there [on campus] for 10 months out of the year.
“When I left [military school for good], I [realized] I had missed out on some things and the way my childhood was supposed to go.
“And I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy, and I started partying and using ecstasy, cocaine and weed at 16.”
He said a buddy of his asked if he’d like to try heroine and “at the time, there was nothing like it.”
“I fell in love with it, really,” Parr said. “I went to my first rehab when I was 16, and whenever I got out, I just threw myself back into using.”
He said that when he was 17, he tried “shooting up” for the first time and said, “the needle changes everything.”
“The last time I overdosed, my now wife is the one who found me,” Parr said.
Parr said it wasn’t until he checked into John 3:16 Ministries in Charlotte, Arkansas, that he finally got clean.
“There are many of us working together, trying to put up a firewall so we don’t end up like some of these states that are much worse off …,” May said. “We’ve got to be able to break that cycle.”
Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.