Muse Treatment Center Applauds San Francisco’s Rapid Response Teams Fighting to Save Lives From Drug Overdose
Los Angeles, CA – Thousands of lives are being saved by an innovative public health program in San Francisco. The city’s health and fire departments have teamed up to revive drug users from drug overdoses and then offer support and follow-up care to connect them with addiction treatment.
The Street Overdose Response Teams (SORT) program is one of two efforts to prevent deadly overdoses by providing naloxone. This life-saving medication reverses a drug overdose preventing death. Muse Treatment Center in Los Angeles applauds these groundbreaking solutions to the rising epidemic of drug-related deaths.
SORT, a joint project of San Francisco’s health and fire departments, is a response to the record-setting increase in drug overdose deaths. US drug fatalities have surpassed 100,000 in 12 months for the first time in history, according to the National Center for Health Statistics which reported on the 12 months leading up to April 2021. Fatalities rose by 28.5% over the same period.
Opioids make up more than 75% of overdose deaths, and most of those are tied to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s often added to illicit drugs, usually without the user’s knowledge which causes users to overdose. But many other drug users are knowingly abusing fentanyl for its cheap, powerful high – which almost always ends tragically.
The SORT teams, which include nurses from the city’s Department of Public Health, begin their work by handing out naloxone to users on the streets. San Francisco drug users are also being helped by the Drug Overdose Prevention and Education (DOPE) Project, the largest single-city naloxone distribution program in the country.
Founded in 2003, the DOPE Project is now a world-renowned program that is considered a model for integrating community-based naloxone distribution. Its history dates back to 1993 when youth outreach workers in San Francisco began distributing overdose-prevention education flyers developed by the Santa Cruz Needle Exchange in California. The effort eventually grew into DOPE, which has been embraced by local public health and substance use treatment officials. As a result, leaders of the program say naloxone was used to reverse about 2,600 overdoses in 2019.
For the SORT teams, naloxone is just the start of a comprehensive approach to helping drug users. After administering naloxone to save the overdosing user, they begin helping users find emergency shelter and food if they need it and refer them to treatment. Their goal is to start this phase of support within 24 to 72 hours of naloxone treatment, but in many cases, SORT leaders say, the user can be in a treatment program within hours.
They say 10% of users they engage are now getting medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with buprenorphine, a drug that’s frequently used to treat opioid addiction. Addiction treatment programs like Muse in Los Angeles, use buprenorphine-based medications to ease withdrawal symptoms during detox as well as prevent cravings for opioids long term.
When administered under the careful supervision of medical professionals, MAT provides a highly effective treatment for opioid use disorder. Muse combines MAT with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a “whole patient” approach that treats symptoms as well as the underlying causes of addiction.
Anyone in need of help for addiction can speak to a treatment specialist at any time by calling 800-426-1818. Visit Muse Treatment online for more information.
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