America’s opioid epidemic has become so extreme that even librarians are being trained to combat overdoses.
In Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco young library staff are being armed with first aid kits which contain doses of Naxolone, a vital drug which reverses the deadly effects of heroin and methamphetamine via nasal spray or injection.
Staff have not only had to learn how to give it responsibly to people inside the libraries but they are also now rushing out to save addicts in public parks and spaces.
City workers said the problem was among the worst public health emergencies they had ever seen.
Staff at McPherson Square Library in Philadelphia (pictured) have been trained to give drug addicts Naxolone if they see them overdosing
Chera Kowalski, 33, has brought several people back from the brink of death at McPherson Square Library in Philadelphia.
The library had to close for three days last year when needles clogged its sewage system.
They have since had to put up signs on the bathroom doors limiting people to five minute slots to use the facilities and they are only allowed in after leaving their ID card with staff.
They say that part of the problem in Philadelphia is drug tourism which brings addicts from all over the country to Kensington, a pocket of the city which is known to boast the purest form of heroin on the East Coast.
Kowalski, whose own parents were heroin addicts but who are now both clean, told CNN she hoped the situation would improve.
Naxolone, known by brand name Narcan, reverses the effects of deadly opioids like heroin
‘I understand where they’re coming from and why they’re doing it.
‘I just keep faith and hope that one day they get the chance and the opportunity to get clean,’ she said.
Others, including Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, are less optimistic.
‘It is among the worst public health problems we’ve ever seen, and it’s continuing to get worse. We have not seen the worst of it yet,’ he said.
At Denver Central Library in Colorado, staff had to treat an addict with Naxolone – which is often known by its brand name Narcan – on the same day they received their first stash of it.
In San Francisco, someone died of an opioid overdose in the bathroom of a public library. Afterwards, staff across the city were trained in administering Narcan.
More than 33,000 people died from opioid abuse in 2015. While heroin remains one of the deadliest drugs, prescription painkillers are also largely to blame.
In the same year, more than 1million people sought care after overdosing.
The risk posed by substances including fentanyl, codeine, dilaudid, oxycodone, morphine, Percocet went largely undetected for years given their legal status.
Libraries are also being equipped with injections of Naxolone (pictured) to help fight the epidemic
Denver Central Library is another place where staff have been trained to treat overdoses