Our latest drug problem

December 3, 2013
by Jonathan Staloff
Brown University Daily Herald

In my five years working on ambulances as an emergency medical technician — both at home and in Rhode Island — only once have I seen a patient come close to dying before my eyes. To my surprise, the cause of almost-death was neither heart attack nor car wreck, nor stroke nor stabbing. Instead, it came neatly packaged in a tiny white pill bearing the name Vicodin.

I found my patient on the floor of his suburban New Jersey home, unconscious, not breathing and with a face as young as my own. Remembering my training, I took a deep breath and then did my best to help him. The patient’s already weak pulse was rapidly deteriorating, and all I could do was continue to ventilate him and wait for paramedics. The second they arrived on scene, they reached into their box of medications and took out an orange capped vial with a clear liquid inside, which they then injected into the patient’s arm. Shortly thereafter, he began to breathe on his own, his face regained its color and we got him to the hospital in better condition than we found him. After my initial sense of relief, I walked away from my closest run-in with death feeling disturbed. What was this mystery medicine, and why did my patient have to wait for a paramedic for it to save his life?

Jonathan Staloff ’14 worked at the Clinton Foundation, an organization working to improve access to naloxone and reduce prescription drug abuse on college campuses.

View the full story (some sites require registration)