One Way to Lower Drug Overdose Deaths

In light of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s recent drug overdose death, this seems like a good public health initiative (boldface mine):

Although opioid overdoses typically take several hours to kill, once breathing has slowed past a certain point, it takes just seconds for the lack of oxygen to damage the brain irreversibly. But there is an antidote that if used before this point — even when the opioids are mixed with other drugs— that can instantly reverse what excessive amounts of the drugs can do, typically reviving victims in seconds.

That drug is known as naloxone (Narcan). The government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is currently distributing an “Opioid Overdose Toolkit” [PDF] to encourage communities to learn about overdose symptoms and increase its availability… Naloxone is nontoxic and cannot be abused— in fact, it causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms so there is little likelihood it would be misused, and even less chance it would encourage more drug use as an overdose “safety net.”

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering making the drug available over-the-counter, right now, it’s only available with a prescription. So most people who could benefit from it do not have it handy when seconds count. It is not clear why the agency has not moved more quickly, given the level of public concern about overdose, but part of the problem has to do with the fact that naloxone must be injected, and that requires a certain amount of training to ensure the drug is delivered safely and appropriately. The National Institute on Drug Abuse funded a trail of a nasal spray version of naloxone made by Lightlake Pharmaceuticals, however, that reported positive results last December.

As you can imagine, there’s blowback from our awesome War on (Some People Who Use) Drugs:

…because drug users often fear arrest, many do not call for help during an overdose, which is why some drug experts advocate for both expanding availability of naloxone, as well as changing laws to protect those who call in overdoses.

Make it easier to get naloxone and increase the Good Samaritan laws that protect people from legal complications if they report and assist during an overdose. Of course, given that large swathes of the country are governed, at best, by fucking morons, this probably won’t happen.

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2 Responses to One Way to Lower Drug Overdose Deaths

  1. albanaeon says:

    Yep, Our drug war is institutionalized idiocy. We lock away large segments of our minority population for a drug that almost laughably mild but boy does it make private prison execs rich and a swath of human rights violations and our old white curmudgeons feel justified in having arsenals to take down a third world nation. And the fairly dangerous stuff is entirely in the hands of the worse people in the world for distribution and punishment awaits for anyone who wants to get away.

    And yet this remains a third rail in our politics while we debate if people need food.

    What a country.

  2. Newcastle says:

    Even using it as an injectable they could create an EpiPen type of solution if they really wanted to.

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