Give addicts every possible chance at recovery.
That thinking is behind a robust new push to get the life-saving drug Narcan into the hands of every public health official, school district, law enforcement agency, and first responder across the nation. Now.
Narcan, one of the brand-name drugs for naloxone, is a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The drug is typically administered intravenously, though a nasal spray is also available. Narcan training is now a priority nationwide.
Colorado is in the process of training every local police department how to use the drug; so far 130 departments have gone through the process. In Florida, more than 50 instructors from 14 different agencies are scheduled for training.
Schools throughout Wisconsin are considering stocking the overdose antidote after one district took the lead. A recovering addict in Vermont is pushing for all first responders to carry it, even though the state health department has already given out 18,000 doses of naloxone free to anyone who wants or needs them.
In Utah, Jennifer Plumb, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics, is spearheading a campaign to make naloxone kits more readily available to the public.
Plumb recently revived a woman she encountered on her way back from a Narcan training session. She wishes someone had been able to do the same for her brother — he overdosed 20 years ago. A paramedic on the scene told Plumb at the time, "I wish he would have had naloxone," as Yahoo news reported. The comment, she said, has stayed with her.
There's a legitimate concern this miracle drug will do nothing more than encourage addicts to continue using their poison of choice — since there's now a way to bring them back to life, essentially, in the event of an overdose. In some cases, that may be the reality. But addiction experts, public health officials, family members, and others believe the antidote can offer an addict a second chance at life — something so desperately needed.
Opioids — meaning prescription medications as well as street drugs like heroin and fentanyl — have become the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.
Nearly 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids in 2014, and more than 33,000 people died of an overdose in 2015, more than any other year on record. That's 91 people a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most states now allow anyone to buy naloxone from a pharmacist without a prescription. Stores such as CVS and Walgreens have also expanded over-the-counter availability of the overdose reversal drug.
"Naloxone isn't going to cure this crisis, but until we get a better grip on getting people the help they need, it's acting as the proverbial fire extinguisher," Plumb told Yahoo news. "Having greater access will also inspire a lot of dialogue in school about drug use as well."