Opioids continue to lead the U.S. drug epidemic and the popularity of these drugs continues to rise. The pharmaceutical industry has even taken measures to combat prescription opioid abuse by implementing a new abuse-deterrent formula of oxycodone (OxyContin). Unfortunately, this effort to change the drug’s recipe led opioid addicts to make the switch over to heroin, triggering a wave in heroin abuse across the country. While the nation continues to struggle with preventing opioid addiction and overdoses, naloxone has provided a means to reverse overdoses.
Naloxone is marketed under name Narcan and is a pure opioid antagonist. It is used as a medication to counteract the effects of opioid use and is usually used in severe causes in which a user has overdosed. Naloxone counters overdose symptoms by reversing the depression of the respiratory system and central nervous system and alleviating hypotension.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), which indicated that naloxone kits helped to reverse 26,463 drug overdoses within an 18 year time span. Naloxone kits typically include written material about preventing overdoses, administering naloxone, other safety items and the drug itself.
The Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC) is an organization that advocates expanding access to naloxone kits. They have surveyed 136 organizations that provided kits to 152,283 people between 1996 and 2014.
Previous research has found that doctors have been hesitant to prescribe naloxone with opioid prescriptions. Some prescribers are worried about bystanders administering naloxone on a user who is overdosing. Naloxone lasts just between 30 to 90 minutes, which means that overdoses could possibly recur even after the reversal drug is administered. The HRC recommends that people who administer the drug stay with the user until the period of risk is over.
There are numerous initiatives that hope to expanding naloxone accessibility to public safety organizations, community organizations and colleges and university campuses. President Obama has also made it a priority to make naloxone more accessible for first responders.
Study author and DOPE Project Manager at HRC, Eliza Wheeler, said that naloxone is available in an injectable form or nasal spray. She also noted that people can learn how to recognize when an opioid overdose is occurring and figure out a person’s condition in less than 10 minutes. She believes that naloxone kits should be available at drug addiction treatment centers, jails, needle exchanges or any other program that treat patients who suffer from drug addiction.
Chief Medical Officer at Phoenix House, a drug addiction treatment center, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, said that having naloxone available at drug rehabilitation facilities won’t make addicts more prone to taking larger doses of opioids. He says, “The reason this isn’t a concern is that getting rescued with naloxone is an extremely unpleasant experience — the naloxone causes opioid withdrawal symptoms…The person who gets rescued with naloxone feels awful when they regain consciousness.”
The prescription opioid epidemic has risen dramatically over the past decade, causing a surge in drug-related deaths across the nation. While the federal government and pharmaceutical companies take measures to combat this crisis, naloxone serves as valuable tool that fights this problem by taking immediate action in reversing opioid overdoses.
Naloxone gives addicts a second chance at life and gives them time to seek help. Sovereign Health Group is among the premier and well-renowned drug addiction treatment providers in the country. We offer various inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for patients who are struggling with drug addiction, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. If you know someone who is struggling with drug addiction and is in need of addiction treatment, please do not hesitate to call. You may reach us at 888-530-4614. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and one of our treatment specialists will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.
Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer