The America Starts Talking campaign is raising awareness on safe use of prescription opioids and preparedness for accidental overdoses. Former Pro Football player Mike Alstott has joined in the cause, and is speaking out publicly for the first time about his experience with prescription opioids in the hope it will encourage more people to talk openly with their healthcare providers and loved ones about the safe use of medication for pain.
During the 12 years Alstott played professional football, he had 47 documented injuries and was prescribed opioids to manage his pain. He was fortunate that his athletic trainer and team physician warned him of the risks involved in taking opioids even when taken as directed.
When I learned that on average 44 people die every day in the U.S. from prescription opioid overdoses and more than 80 percent of those deaths are accidental, I realized how lucky I was,” said Alstott. “I joined America Starts Talking not only to help people understand how to take these medications safely, but also know what an opioid emergency looks like, and what to do if one happens.”
Signs of an opioid emergency can include slow or irregular heartbeat, loss of consciousness, blue or purple fingernails or lips, extremely small pupils and very slow or absent breathing. Lack of oxygen can lead to brain damage in as few as four minutes, so patients may want to talk to their healthcare professional about the safe use of opioids including having the opioid antidote naloxone available at home so that loved ones can rapidly intervene if needed. Naloxone works by displacing opioids from receptors in the brain, reversing the effects of opioids and the life-threatening breathing problems that can occur.