By: Bethany Haynes
On Thursday, April 5th, our nation’s Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, issued a national advisory about the growing opioid epidemic and how to help those experiencing an overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids are a class of drugs including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription pain relievers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that opioid usage has drastically risen since 2016 and has resulted in the death of over 42,000 Americans. The numbers have since been rising and are creating great concern among federal government officials. Now, for the first time in over a decade, Dr. Adams has put out an advisory in hope to reduce the death toll count.
The national advisory urges that Americans carry naloxone, a drug that can save the lives of those overdosing from opioids. According to CVS Pharmacy, naloxone is also known by the brand name Narcan. It works by blocking or reversing the effects of opioids allowing the victim to breathe normally again. It is non-addictive and comes in two forms, a nasal spray or a muscular injection. The biggest side effect is opioid withdrawal that only some overdose victims will experience. Dr. Adams is encouraging that close friends and family members of addicts’ start carrying the lifesaving drug in case of an emergency. He believes that with more people having it on hand, the survival rate of overdoses will increase as the majority of instances occur at home.
Naloxone can be bought at any CVS Pharmacy without prescription in 46 participating states, the exceptions being Wyoming, Nebraska, Maine, and Hawaii. If you are in a state where a prescription is required, reach out to your primary care physician. Then once obtained, learn how to use it and tell your friends and family where it is being kept. Dr. Adams states in an article posted by the Washington Post, that 95 percent of all insured Americans are covered to purchase naloxone making it easily obtainable. However, “for those uninsured, Narcan can cost around $80 per dose but the antidote is often available at little or no cost through local public health programs.”
While the federal government hopes that this national advisory will help save lives, an article from the New York Times states that many local police, fire and health departments are concerned by the growing cost of naloxone. Increased demand is drastically raising prices and using large amounts of their budgets. Some cities may not be able to afford to keep a steady supply on hand resulting in naloxone needing to be rationed. This raises the concern of how do these departments decide who does and doesn’t receive the lifesaving antidote when supplies are low.
The other major concern is that users and addicts will view naloxone as a safety net. People may become more willing to risk taking larger opioid amounts with a drug like naloxone easily accessible on the market. The fear of dying by overdose can lower and the opioid epidemic can then continue to grow. However, public health experts are dismissing the idea and do not believe this will become the case.