Father of former addict donates time to teach others how to use Narcan

Families Against Narcotics offer classes to teach public how to use drug

John Mattarella donates his time to teaching people how to use Narcan, the drug that can temporarily block the effects of opioids such as prescription pain pills and heroin.

He does it because he knows firsthand the difficulties and struggle that comes with having a loved one who is an addict.

His son Anthony became addicted to prescription pain pills after an injury. That addiction eventually grew to include heroin.

Mattarella and his family are an example of how this opioid epidemic can affect anyone, anywhere.

"I come from a typical all-American family," Mattarella told the crowd at a recent training session. "Not divorced, no strife in the family, soccer coach, did all the right things, went to church, we had dinner, we read to our children, all those things ... my son became an opioid addict."

RELATED: 4 of 5 overdose victims saved by Narcan during 2-day period in Oakland County

Mattarella turned to Families Against Narcotics or FAN to help him and his family during their son's addiction.

"This group was extremely helpful in getting me back my life within my family," Mattarella said.

Grateful for the support, Mattarella now volunteers his time, using his expertise as a nurse anesthetist to teach people how to use the Narcan nasal spray. FAN offers free classes to the public. Mattarella says teaching the general public how to use Narcan is very important to help save a loved one’s life.

Narcan temporarily blocks the effects of the opioid until emergency medical services can arrive. When it works, the addict can go into acute narcotic withdrawal, which that can last quite some time.

"This is an emergency situation where an opioid addict has taken too much and they have stopped their breathing or slowed their breathing down and they need to have it reversed," Mattarella said. "They die if they are not given this reversal of the opioid."

"If someone is struggling with addiction, every family member should absolutely have this on hand, in their home, carry it around at all times," said Katie Donovan, executive vice president of FAN.

Donovan said Narcan can be used for accidental overdoses, too, such as when seniors forget they took their medication and overdose. She also thinks Narcan should be kept in public places including restaurants to help save lives if there is an overdose.

"Any place, really, that has a bathroom, you should be carrying this, anything can happen at any time," Donovan said.

Donovan's daughter Brittany battled addiction for seven years before getting clean. Narcan was not an option when her daughter was an addict.

Mattarella said that in Michigan, Narcan can only be administered with a prescription.

"I think it’s really important in our community right now, as an initial step in battling this problem. We've had many, many deaths from opioid overdoses and we want it to stop," Mattarella said. "This is one thing that we can do to save our loved ones and it's working."

Everyone who attends the training gets a free Narcan kit to take with them. For more information on Families Against Narcotics, click here.

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