Naloxone, known as the overdose antidote, is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and is now available in California without a prescription. The hope is that the expanded access to the drug will save more lives in the state. Thousands of opioid drug abusers and addicts die every year in California from overdoses. Most of the deaths are related to prescription painkillers, but heroin is also a culprit.
Naloxone and Opioid Overdose
Opioid drugs are a major problem in the U.S. Both narcotic prescription painkillers—like oxycodone, hydrocodone or morphine—and heroin are in the opioid class of drugs and act similarly in the brain and body. These opioid drugs are highly addictive and it’s easy for users to suffer accidental, fatal overdoses. New users are especially vulnerable to an overdose, but all users can easily make this deadly mistake. Naloxone comes in the form of an injection or a nasal spray and can reverse the effects of an overdose. It is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the opioid drugs in the brain and has the effect of reversing the negative and possibly fatal symptoms. Some estimates say that naloxone has saved more than 10,000 lives over 15 years. It has largely been first responders and emergency room workers with access to naloxone who are able to use it to save lives, but laws are changing to expand access to the public.
Naloxone in California
California is leading the charge in increasing naloxone access. Thanks to a new law, pharmacists are able to dispense naloxone to people without prescriptions for the life-saving drug. The measure is meant to target patients with prescriptions for narcotic painkillers as well as heroin addicts. Pharmacists are also encouraged to offer naloxone to customers they believe may be at risk for an opioid overdose. Those pharmacists who will be selling naloxone are required to take a short training course that teaches them how to screen for patients who are sensitive to naloxone. The hour-long course also teaches pharmacists how to educate customers who may need to use naloxone. Using naloxone is fairly easy, but the nasal spray is especially easy for beginners to administer. Anyone who is around an opioid drug user and has access to naloxone should become familiar with both forms of the drug in order to be prepared to administer it. It is important that someone giving naloxone to an overdose victim administers the drug and then calls 911 for emergency treatment. The medicine is life-saving, but it can also cause the addict to suffer extreme withdrawal. California is one of few states to allow such expanded access to naloxone, but it certainly won’t be the last. The drug is easy to administer, safe to use and inexpensive. Although related to opioids, it is not susceptible to abuse. It cannot give someone a high, so there is no point in abusing it. When first responders carry naloxone, they are able to save lives. Ordinary citizens should also be able to save the lives of their loved ones who are in the throes of addiction to these devastating opioid drugs.