The Surgeon General of the US Public Health Service, Jerome Adams, MD, MHP, has issued an advisory emphasizing the importance of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.
“Each day, we lose 115 Americans to an opioid overdose – that’s one person every 12.5 minutes,” Adams said. “It is time to make sure more people have access to this lifesaving medication because 77 percent of opioid overdose deaths occur outside of a medical setting, and more than half occur at home. To manage opioid addiction and prevent future overdoses, increased naloxone availability must occur in conjunction with expanded access to evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder.”
According to the advisory, over the past 15 years, individuals, families, and communities across our Nation have been tragically affected by the opioid epidemic, with the number of overdose deaths from prescription and illicit opioids doubling from 21,089 in 2010 to 42,249 in 2016. This steep increase is attributed to the rapid proliferation of illicitly made fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids. These highly potent opioids are being mixed with heroin, sold alone as super-potent heroin, pressed into counterfeit tablets to look like commonly misused prescription opioids or sedatives (e.g., Xanax), and being mixed (often unknowingly) with other illicit drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine.
For patients currently taking high doses of opioids as prescribed for pain, individuals misusing prescription opioids, individuals using illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, health care practitioners, family and friends of people who have an opioid use disorder, and community members who come into contact with people at risk for opioid overdose, knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life.
In most states, naloxone is available over the counter, and most states have laws designed to protect health care professionals for prescribing and dispensing naloxone from civil and criminal liabilities, as well as Good Samaritan laws to protect people who administer naloxone or call for help during an opioid overdose emergency.
The FDA-approved drug is covered by most insurance plans, and it is easy to use and safe to administer.