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Delta passenger carried off plane ‘in a body bag’ after bathroom overdose, flier says

Why it’s so hard to break an opioid addiction

More than a half-million people died from opioids between 2000 and 2015. Today, opioid deaths are considered an epidemic. To understand the struggle of a drug addiction, we take a closer look at what happens to the body.
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More than a half-million people died from opioids between 2000 and 2015. Today, opioid deaths are considered an epidemic. To understand the struggle of a drug addiction, we take a closer look at what happens to the body.

Delta Air Lines has promised to carry an opioid overdose reversal drug on its flights after a passenger took to Twitter reporting that a man fatally overdosed on her plane.

“I can’t speak to details of the event specifically due to passenger privacy rules,” said a spokesperson for the Atlanta-based company, according to Fox News. “That said, Delta earlier this year made the decision to improve our on board emergency medical kits by adding Narcan. The process to outfit medical kits will begin this fall.”

The incident occurred July 13 on flight 2531 from Boston to Los Angeles, according to Yahoo Lifestyle, which reported that “the airline confirms that a medical emergency took place and that flights do not currently carry naloxone.”

Lynne Lyman wrote on Twitter the next day that “a man just overdosed on my Delta flight” in the bathroom. She said there was no Narcan kit aboard.

“The paramedics took 10 minutes to arrive,” Lyman wrote in a message that has been retweeted more than 1,000 times. “They just carried him out in a body bag.”

Lyman said the flight crew did its best despite not having the overdose reversal drug.

“The flight attendants were great, they tried everything,” said Lyman, a former California director for the Drug Policy Alliance, according to her LinkedIn profile. “As was the man who broke the bathroom door open and pulled him out, and the doctor that tried to help.”

Lyman called on Delta to add Narcan kits to all its flights.

Lyman said the crew realized something was wrong when the flight prepared for landing and someone remained in the restroom, which prompted them to force the door open and discover the apparently unresponsive man, Yahoo reports.

“They were doing everything they could. CPR, shock compressions,” Lyman said, according to the news site. “There were a number of children on board who were looking. I was trying to pull my child from looking.”

She said the nightmare continued after landing.

“It was just a terrible 10 minutes after we were docked on the gate,” Lyman said, according to Yahoo. “Emergency people weren’t fast enough and we were waiting for them because we knew he was dying.”

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes naloxone as “a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent overdose by opioids such as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. It blocks opioid receptor sites, reversing the toxic effects of the overdose. Naloxone is administered when a patient is showing signs of opioid overdose.”

AP_18031167711968.jpg
In this Jan. 23, 2018 photo, Leah Hill, a behavioral health fellow with the Baltimore City Health Department, displays a sample of Narcan nasal spray in Baltimore. The overdose-reversal drug is a critical tool to easing America’s coast-to-coast opioid epidemic. But not everyone on the front lines has all they need. Baltimore’s health department is rationing its supplies of naloxone because it says it can’t afford an adequate stockpile. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky AP

The drug is often referred to as Narcan, which is the name of a popular brand. Naloxone can be administered as a nasal spray or as an injection, the federal agency said.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, a union representing around 50,000 workers, responded on Twitter and thanked Lyman for sharing the story.

“Flight Attendants are aviation’s first responders and we need the proper tools to respond and save lives,” Nelson wrote. “In the air there are no options. I’m so sorry for you, Lynne, and the crew and other passengers who had to watch this.”

Nelson also pointed to a February letter in which the union urged the Federal Aviation Administration to require passenger planes to carry naloxone nasal spray.

“It does not require assembly, use or disposal of needles, or more than a few minutes’ training,” the letter said, adding that currently “naloxone is not a standard on-board medication in commercial aviation, which renders individuals at a higher risk of death by overdose in the air than on the ground.”

Kansas is one of three states in the nation without expanded access to a life-saving drug that reverses opioid overdoses. The drug is called naloxone, or Narcan by its brand-name.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.
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