By: Arielle Levin Becker
Dr. William Horgan has seen his share of patients go through life-changing experiences – and the changes that come from them.
“A chronic smoker who has a heart attack and then recovers, the likelihood of them picking a cigarette back up is so infinitesimally small,” said Horgan, the associate chief of emergency services at Backus Hospital in Norwich.
But heroin is different, Horgan says: Its grip is so strong, it seems to defy that logic.
When patients come into his emergency room after overdosing and being revived by the opioid antidote naloxone, it’s not uncommon for them to leave soon after, in withdrawal, to use again.
“They’re so quick to go back to it, it’s frightening,” Horgan said. “You feel useless.”
The wider availability of naloxone, the drug that can reverse opioid overdoses, is the result of efforts by Connecticut policymakers to respond to the opioid epidemic. Experts say it’s a vital tool, but in many ways, a short-term one: Naloxone saves lives, but it doesn’t necessarily change them.
What else can help? The Backus Hospital emergency room is part of a pilot program that tries to capitalize on the potential for an overdose to be a turning point, by connecting people who overdose with professionals who can nudge them toward recovery.
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