The Overdose Antidote: Should You Have It On Hand?
Overdose deaths caused by heroin and other opioid drugs are on the rise across the U.S. Opioids include illegal heroin, but also many powerful and addictive prescription painkillers. All of these drugs are easy to abuse, get addicted to and overdose and die from using. An injection with a drug called Naloxone can reverse such an overdose and prevent a tragic death. If you have someone in your life addicted to or abusing opioids, you need to know about this life-saving overdose antidote.
When Naloxone Can Be Used
Naloxone is a drug that is related to opioids and that is capable of reversing the effects of certain opioids on the body. It can be used after surgery to reverse the effects of opioids given for pain and sedation. It can be given to infants born with a dependency on opioids. A mother’s drug use causes this and the Naloxone helps to relieve the infant’s withdrawal symptoms. For someone overdosing on an opioid, Naloxone can be injected with a needle or with an auto-injector, called Evzio. The auto-injector is similar to devices used for severe allergic reactions and can be used by anyone without medical training.
Naloxone Saves Lives
Naloxone has been successful in saving lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that thousands of doses of Naloxone have been distributed in community groups dedicated to preventing overdose deaths. Because of this distribution, more than 10,000 people have been saved from life-threatening overdoses. Community groups, first responders and law enforcement officers are being given injectors in greater numbers to administer life-saving Naloxone.
Can Anyone Get Naloxone?
The important question for anyone who cares about an opioid drug abuser is about access to the overdose antidote. Emergency responders and police have them, and injection devices are easy to use. Can anyone get access to a Naloxone injector? Should you carry one with you to save your loved one’s life in the event of an unintentional overdose? Many advocates for greater access to the overdose antidote say yes.
Community programs are already working toward getting more Naloxone injectors into the hands of those who need it. It is a prescription medication, but it can be prescribed to anyone who is at risk of having an overdose. The reach of such community programs, however, is currently limited. These programs are run mostly through needle exchange programs and target inner-city heroin addicts. More access is needed in greater areas and for people abusing prescription painkillers, not just heroin. Support for expanding access is high, but funds are low.
To get a Naloxone injector for yourself or a loved one, you need to either find a community program near you that will distribute it to those in need, or find a physician willing to write you a prescription for one. If you don’t know where to start, speak to your primary care doctor for more information or referrals. Also keep an eye out for non-prescription Naloxone. Because of the great need for this life-saving drug, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering the development of an over-the-counter alternative.
Opioid addiction is a terrible disease. It can hook anyone and it can do so quickly. Getting over an addiction to an opioid is extremely challenging. Anyone abusing these drugs is at risk for an overdose. Dying from an overdose can even occur with the first use of one of these drugs. If you know someone who abuses any kind of opioid, the overdose antidote should be on your radar. Look into the possibility of getting access to the injector. It could save the life of someone you love.