By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota group battling the opioid epidemic is taking that fight to the air.

Addiction advocates are pushing airlines to equip their planes with Narcan. The medication reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

WCCO details how dangerous an airplane ride can be without it.

For five years, Chelsea Thompson used heroin daily when she lived in California — until her heart stopped two summers ago.

“I instantly knew this was something that could take my life, but at that point, I didn’t care,” Thompson said. “I’m very lucky to be alive, they said. I shouldn’t be.”

Thompson works now as a sober house manager and with Change the Outcome. It’s a nonprofit tackling the opioid epidemic with lessons in Minnesota classrooms.

“I want to help as many addicts as I can,” she said.

Part of that help has her focused on getting airlines on board, equipping all planes with life-saving medicine in the event of an opioid overdose.

“I remember before leaving California, I got incredibly high before I got on the airplane,” Thompson said.

Thompson calls it common for addicts to use even more before flying, often on a trip to treatment.

“I don’t remember that airplane ride at all,” she said.

It was nearly three years ago when Prince’s private plane made an emergency landing in Illinois. Paramedics on the ground administered Narcan.

But, WCCO got mixed responses when we asked MSP’s major airlines if they have Narcan on hand. At this point, American Airlines does, Delta is in the process of updating its medical kits with the medicine, United wouldn’t say and Sun Country doesn’t right now, but is in talks about doing so soon.

“I think everyone, everywhere should carry Narcan,” Thompson said.

As for Thompson, she keeps it close. Grateful for her second shot at life.

“I think addicts deserve this chance to live just like anybody else,” she said.

Narcan in the nasal spray form costs about $135 for two doses at the pharmacy. The vial version is about $20 to $40 per vial. Insurance will usually cover some of the cost.

Liz Collin

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