The fight against heroin is getting even more serious.
A nationwide analysis, reported in early 2016 by drugabuse.gov, shows that prescriptions for naloxone in the United States have increased tenfold in the past 18 months. Naloxone, is a medication designed to rapidly reverse an overdose caused by an opioid, such as heroin.
State governments and community agencies have stepped up the fight by relaxing the rules on naloxone. In coordination, they are making the medication widely available to schools and the general public. The brand name for naloxone is NARCAN. Naloxone can reverse the effects of overdoses from opioids, such as heroin and powerful pain medications like oxycodone and morphine.
Both Maryland and Pennsylvania have passed laws that allow access to naloxone without a prescription. They also have authorized training and certification for many to administer naloxone, including EMTs, firefighters, police officers, teachers, and even the general public.
Narcan Reverses an Overdose
When administered during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing within 2 to 8 minutes. Naloxone has been used safely by medical professionals for more than 40 years and has only one function: to reverse the effects of opioids on the brain in order to prevent death.
Naloxone is approved by the FDA in both injection and nasal-spray formulas.
The availability of naloxone couldn’t come soon enough. The opioid epidemic in America is staggering. In 2014, more than 18,000 deaths were reported from an overdose to pain relievers such as oxycodone and morphine. More than 10,000 people died from a heroin overdose. Both of those figures have more than quadrupled since 2002.
Maryland Leads the Way
In Maryland, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued an order in February 2016 authorizing pharmacists to dispense naloxone to thousands of people who have been trained and certified through the Overdose Response Program. A prescription is not needed.
Nearly 13,000 people have been certified to administer naloxone since the program began in March 2014, according to a story in The Washington Post. The state has authorized 41 organizations to conduct training and certification.
Certificate-holders must pay for the drug, which is covered by some insurance companies.