Opioid overdose is a significant public health problem in the United States. Addiction to Heroin and other opioids has reached epidemic levels with as many as 1.9 million individuals in the U.S. suffering with Opioid Use Disorders. While treatment and recovery remains the best option to overcome drug addiction, as a society we must be better prepared to save lives should the worst scenario transpire. In 2013 accidental drug overdose exceeded motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of accidental death. In 2014 there were over 47,000 drug overdose deaths, of which 26,000 were the results of opioid use. Naloxone, known by many as Naracan, is a potentially lifesaving prescription medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and substantially reduce overdose deaths.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can reverse respiratory depression and revive individuals within minutes of administration. It is not a new medication, as it has been FDA approved for more than 40 years. However, until recently it has only been available to emergency medical responders. Recent research suggests that by expanding access to this medication overdose can be reduced significantly. In the time it takes for an ambulance to arrive a friend, family member, or bystander could administer a dose of Naloxone and save a life. Who knows, had the individual who first found Prince been carrying Naloxone, he may very well be alive today.
Naloxone is safe, non-abusable, and cannot get you high. While it only works to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, it will not cause harm if there were other drugs in the unconscious individual’s system. Although there has been some concern expressed among both treatment providers and the recovery community, there is no evidence that Naloxone distribution will be perceived as a safety net and increase the use of heroin or other opioids. To the contrary, placing such medication in the hands of a recovering individual may increase one’s awareness of just how life threatening opioid use can be. People die every day after attempting abstinence only to resume usage where they left off, not recognizing that their tolerance may have decreased and the dose they administer could be their last.
In Florida, where Evolutions Treatment Center is located, The Florida Emergency Treatment and Recovery Act was passed in June of 2015. This act not only allows health care professionals to prescribe and dispense Naloxone to those at risk of experiencing or witnessing opioid overdose, but offers protection from civil and criminal liability to those administering the drug to any individual perceived to be experiencing an opioid overdose. More recently, in 2016, the legislation adopted language to amend Florida’s Emergency Treatment (Naloxone) Act. This amendment, scheduled to go into effect on July 1st, 2016, will permit pharmacists to dispense Naloxone under non-patient specific standing orders from the prescriber. In this manner, a doctor will no longer be required to write a prescription to a specific individual, which will effectively widen it’s availability in emergency situations.
Naloxone is recommended for those at risk of overdose or who may witness an overdose, such as a family member or those connected with the recovery community. It can be administered via an intranasal spray or through intramuscular, subcutaneous, and intravenous injection. The Evzio auto-injector provides verbal prompts that direct the user exactly how to administer the medication into the outer thigh of an overdose victim. Nalaxone should certainly not be an alternative to treatment, but somebody whose life is saved from overdose can at least get a second chance to receive the treatment they may so desperately need to get better. At Evolutions Treatment Center we have successfully treated numerous individuals who have been saved from overdose and went on to live happy and successful lives.