The overdose-reducing drug doctors say more of us should have on hand

Jun 17, 2022, 5:15 PM | Updated: 6:32 pm

TAYLORSVILLE, UtahIt’s in the cupboards at their Taylorsville home, in their cars, and even in the waist pack they wear to take their dogs around the block.

Dennis and Celeste Cecchini are most always within arm’s reach of naloxone, the overdose-reversing drug that can work instantly against heroin and opioid medications. 

“Naloxone is a godsend,” Dennis Cecchini said.

The drug, sometimes referred to by the name brand Narcan, is administered via nasal spray or a syringe.

It could have saved their son Tennyson, but they didn’t know about the drug before he died of a heroin overdose in 2015, just days after completing a treatment program, Dennis Cecchini said. Since his death, the couple has encouraged Utahns to keep the drug on hand.

Dennis Cecchini says naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, should be available to anyone for free. (Ken Fall/KSL TV)

Medical workers, alarmed by a pandemic increase in overdose deaths, are urging more Utahns to pick up the antidote as well, even if they don’t think they are at risk.

But stigma is working against them. There’s a misconception that naloxone is only for those in the depths of substance abuse or experiencing homelessness, but that’s far from the truth, said Kim Compagni, assistant vice president for pain management services at Intermountain Healthcare.

“We’re all susceptible to an overdose, even when taking the medication just as prescribed,” Compagni said. “It can happen to anybody.”

Think of the medication like a fire extinguisher or an EpiPen for severe allergies — another tool in an emergency kit, said Compagni.

It’s important to have close by, even if you’re only taking pain pills for a short time after surgery or an injury, she said.

Certain medical conditions or even alcohol can increase the risk of an overdose, Compagni noted. And some opioid medications are strong enough that a single tablet can kill a child, but naloxone can prevent that. It can be given to anyone, no matter their age, she said.

While there’s been a national shortage of naloxone in the pandemic, the drug is still available in Utah, Compagni said.

Intermountain has long urged patients with chronic pain to keep naloxone on hand. Earlier this year, it began a concerted push to also encourage those taking pills for the short term to pick up the overdose-reversing agent, Compagni said, even if they’re planning to dispose of the painkillers in just a few days.

Dennis Cecchini agrees with the approach. He said anyone who takes home the pills should be equipped with naloxone.

“It’s just a prerequisite,” he said.

He’d also like to see the antidote made available to anyone for free. The price at pharmacies can vary widely, depending on insurance, and Intermountain is working with insurers to lower the cost, Compagni said. In the meantime, community groups like Utah Naloxone provide it for free.

Tennyson Cecchini was a doting young father who built a treehouse in the backyard and loved hockey before his death at 33, Dennis Cecchini recalled. But Tennyson also struggled with the effects of childhood abuse by a babysitter, including insomnia, his father said.

Opioid medication prescribed for a shoulder injury helped Tennyson sleep at night, Dennis Cecchini said, and his son eventually turned to heroin to cope.

“By the time the paramedics came, Tennyson was gone,” he said. “And that didn’t have to happen.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Your Life Your Health

Harmoni Memmott went through seven months of chemotherapy at Primary Children's Hospital to beat a ...
Ayanna Likens

2-year-old beats cancer after receiving care at Primary Children’s Hospital

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and one 2-year-old in Tooele battled cancer and beat it after treatment at Primary Children's Hospital.
6 months ago
FILE PHOTO (Maryland State Police)...
Ayanna Likens

How to make sure your child’s car seat is properly installed

It's Child Passenger Safety week, and it's crucial that your kids are properly buckled in before you hit the road.
6 months ago
A program at LDS Hospital is bringing support and a distraction from those receiving treatment for ...
Ayanna Likens

Joy and Wellness Program provided support for those battling cancer

A program at LDS Hospital is bringing support and a distraction from those receiving treatment for blood cancers.
7 months ago
Intermountain healthcare launched a new mental health resource that will visit children and teens i...
Ayanna Likens

A new free mental health resource in Utah will visit children in their moment of crisis

Intermountain Healthcare launched a new mental health resource for children and teens. The Stabilization Mobile Response unit (SMR) is designed to go to your home in a discreet way to help your child in crisis. The service is free.
7 months ago
Max Thomas Richins (right) and Dr. James Hellowell (left), the man who Richins credits with saving ...
Ayanna Likens

Ogden man shares how naloxone saved his life

In honor of International Overdose Awareness Day, one Ogden man said naloxone saved his life — and many of his friends, too.
7 months ago
Mom of three, Abby, working out....
Ayanna Likens

Creating healthy habits for families as kids return to school

Summer has come to an end, and school is back in session, which comes with a big adjustment for both parents and kids.
7 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
The overdose-reducing drug doctors say more of us should have on hand