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Accessing Naloxone in Martin, Tennessee

Martin, Tennessee, is in Weakley County, which borders Western Kentucky. Martin was home to roughly 10,543 people in 2017, says the United States Census Bureau, whereas Weakley County is likely currently home to some 33,400 residents.

Fortunately, the Volunteer State allows syringe services programs (SSP) as long as they’re first sanctioned by the state to act as such. On the other hand, there’s no fully-fledged SSP — they’re generally referred to as syringe exchanges, though the Tennessean government identifies them as SSPs — in West Tennessee.

Memphis, the second-largest city in the state, is home to an active syringe services program, though it’s in the far southwestern extreme of the state, meaning people in Northwest Tennessee aren’t reasonably able to visit. Other Tennessee cities that are home to SSPs include Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.

Even if Memphis were home to an SSP, it’s too far away from NWTN to help my fellow drug users in the further-north portion of Northwest Tennessee. From Martin, for example, it’s about two-and-a-half hours.

While we don’t have any syringe exchanges here in West Tennessee, we do have Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists who are put to work giving out naloxone throughout the state, as well as educating people about using it safely, in a legally-sanctioned manner.

Want Free Naloxone in Martin?

Melesa Lassiter of the Weakley County Prevention Coalition is a registered nurse who works as one of the state’s 20 active Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists. She serves the nine-county region the makes up Northwest Tennessee, classified by the state as Region 6N.

Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists such as Melesa Lassiter primarily work with first responders, people at risk for opioid overdoses, laypeople who might find themselves around people who are at high risk of opioid OD, and “organizations that provide treatment and recovery services or community resources,” according to the official website of the state’s Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services.

You can access Melesa Lassiter’s free services by reaching out to her by email or phone.

Her email is melesa@martinhousing.org.

Her phone number is (731) 819-7603.

You can also visit Martin Housing Authority here in Martin at 134 East Heights Drive to receive naloxone.

What’s Narcan?

Narcan (naloxone) is a name-brand version of naloxone, a drug primarily used to reverse cases of opioid overdose. It is legal to possess in the state of Tennessee.

Its use carries absolutely zero contraindications, or negative side effects, outside of its use in people who regularly use opioids — both pharmaceutical and illegal forms — and are physically dependent on them.

The only contraindication is that using it will cause immediate opioid withdrawal symptoms known as precipitated opioid withdrawal. Precipitated withdrawal symptoms are worse than those from normal opioid withdrawal. Experiencing precipitated opioid withdrawal is a far, far, far more desirable outcome than facing opioid overdose, a now-common form of death that has ravaged the American population over the last few years.

As long as Narcan is given to someone experiencing an opioid overdose within a few minutes, they’ll be brought back to life.

Better Understanding Narcan

All pharmaceutical drugs have name-brand versions. At least they did at a given point in time.

There are multiple name-brand versions of naloxone, though the most widely-recognized one is Narcan. In fact, in my experience working with drug users on a peer-to-peer level throughout Northwest Tennessee (NWTN), I’ve found that “Narcan” is a more commonly-recognized term than “naloxone,” though both are still largely unrecognized by contemporary NWTN-based drug users.

Narcan is a nasal spray that can be purchased in pharmacies and sourced at no cost from government agencies, non-profit organizations, and grassroots harm reduction supporters across the United States.

Naloxone refers to Narcan’s active ingredient itself, as well as generic formulations of naloxone. Outside of nasal spray, naloxone is also common in a generic injectable form that comes in one-milliliter vials.

In the past few months, I visited a local chain pharmacy in Martin and requested a price check on their two-packs of Narcan — the price was $80! This was the cheapest variety they had. I’m not sure if they stocked another name brand of naloxone, Evzio, which costs thousands of dollars per unit — the American average is said to be some $3,854.

Why Bring Back Drug Users to Life?

Since the idea that opioid use is dangerous is widely known, many of us feel that opioids shouldn’t be used in the first place. People who do use them shouldn’t be brought back to life, some of us think.

Although drug users know what they’re getting themselves into, I don’t think anybody wants to see a friend or family member die when they could have been revived. We’ve all lost people to drugs. One reason why is because too many people aren’t aware of naloxone or how to use it; further, most people don’t have steady access to the safe, life-saving drug.

Society benefits in several ways from making naloxone more widely available and making people more aware of its existence and how to use it properly.

Despite these facts, let’s say you still think people shouldn’t use illegal drugs or their legal counterparts (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, coffee).

People can’t use naloxone or Narcan recreationally. It offers absolutely zero recreational effects. You can’t overdose from naloxone, either.

People who are prescribed pharmaceutical opioids by physicians also overdose from opioids. Family members and friends who take their opioid medications on accident, including children, are also liable to experience opioid overdose.

Would it be fair to these chronic pain patients whose lives are ravaged by day-in, day-out pain — as well as their family members and friends — to not have access to naloxone or Narcan and reverse accidental overdoses?

Who Is Narcan For?

Narcan isn’t just for illegal drug users. It’s for people who are prescribed opioids both on a long-term basis and on an acute, short-term basis (i.e., after having wisdom teeth pulled by dentists, after experiencing surgical procedures such as for spine or knee problems). It’s also for laypeople, including family members and friends of known opioid users.

People who aren’t even aware of anybody who takes opioids in any capacity should still keep Narcan around and know how to use it properly. First responders should always have it. All law enforcement officers should possess the drug while they’re on duty. Physicians, pharmacists, and government agencies should make it easier and less worrisome to possess and obtain Narcan.

Do You Oppose the Use of Naloxone and What This Article Talks About?

We should all know about Narcan, at the very least — even if you’re against drug use and against the idea of Narcan in our society, despite the countless benefits associated with its promotion and the few, if any, negatives tied to Narcan. 

Personally, I recognize how otherworldly the views that I express on this website might sound to others. As such, I genuinely believe that my views, as well as the opinions expressed in this article, are not objectively true.

In other words, that means I don’t believe it’s my way or the highway.

Tying Everything Together

However, I do believe that you should thoroughly give my way of thinking a shot before writing it off. Please try to learn about Narcan and its merits before disagreeing with its use.

If you still don’t support Narcan or naloxone and are passionate about this topic, I encourage you to share your opinions with others. We need more informed people who care about things in our society.

By Daniel Garrett

I'm a self-employed writer, long-term drug user, and resident of rural Tennessee. Find me on Twitter at @DanielGarrettHR or email me at danpgarr@ut.utm.edu.

4 replies on “Accessing Naloxone in Martin, Tennessee”

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