New hope for families struggling with heroin addiction

New hope for families struggling with heroin addiction

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The rise in heroin deaths is mind blowing. In 2014, more people in Virginia died of a heroin or opioid drug overdose than a car crash. Now, a drug called Naloxone can be injected and literally bring a person back from the brink of death.

Dr. Peter Coleman explains the heroin and opioid epidemic:

"If there was a plane crash, where 70 people died in one day, it'd be national news. If it happened a second day, we'd all be in total shock. If it happened a third day, we'd be shutting airports down and grounding airliners until we found out what the problem was. And yet that's how many we lose every day, it's unbelievable."

Unbelievable for a man who lives and breathes the reality of drug addiction. Dr. Peter Coleman is the National Medical Director of The Coleman Institute, an accelerated detox center, located in 10 cities around the country and based in Richmond. The Coleman Institute helps drug addicts clean up before it's too late.

'We have family members that go to bed every night wondering if their kid is on heroin and doesn't want to change or has tried changing, and they go to bed every night wondering if their kid is going to be alive the next morning," said Dr. Coleman.

76 families in the US will lose a loved one today and another 76 families tomorrow, but this drug could keep those families from losing that life.

Naloxone has been around for a long time, but now it's available to anyone in Virginia who has a loved one struggling with heroin addiction.

"It's like a magnetized key, if you will," said Dr. Coleman. "If heroin or the opiates, like Percocet or Oxycodone, they turn the switch on like a key fitting in a lock. What Naloxone is, is a magnetized key that will actually suck into the lock and kick the short-acting opiates out and then block it, because it's magnetized, and then the other drug can't get in. So it works very quickly, I mean literally within 20-30 seconds, it's starting to kick the drug out and can reverse an overdose.  So it's a very potent drug that can save a lot of lives."

A fact this addiction specialist sees every day. And perhaps the only reason he's alive today to see it work, is because Naloxone saved his life too.

"I woke up with three or four doctors around me, telling me that I'd overdosed and I'd turned blue, and they'd never seen anybody that blue who had survived."

Dr. Coleman is part of a very small percentage of overdose survivors - those revived with Naloxone who actually get clean. The majority will relapse.

Dr. Coleman says while the country needs improvement there, saving the life of a heroin addict is first and foremost.

It's very important to note, even if you save a life with Naloxone, you still need to call 911 and get them medical help. Families who want it will need a prescription from a doctor, and the drug runs about $51 out of pocket.

As for Doctor Coleman, since he was saved by Naloxone, he's been drug and alcohol free ever since.

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