More Americans should carry overdose antidote to fight opioid crisis, says US surgeon general

Naloxone can bring overdose victims back from near-death

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Thursday 05 April 2018 14:55 BST
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams (Getty Images )

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The US’s chief doctor wants more Americans to start carrying an overdose antidote to fight the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The drug naloxone, often referred to by the brand name Narcan, can restore a person’s breathing after it is injected or sprayed in the nostrils, quickly bringing overdose victims back from near-death.

US Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams said he hopes those who are at risk of an overdose – as well as their friends and family members – will keep the antidote on hand and learn how to use it.

Donald Trump has pledged repeatedly that his administration will confront the opioid epidemic in the US, promising to crack down on those responsible for the drug problem that claimed 64,000 lives in 2016 alone.

“Each day we lose 115 Americans to an opioid overdose – that’s one person every 12.5 minutes,” Mr Adams said in a statement. “It is time to make sure more people have access to this life-saving medication, because 77 per cent of opioid overdose deaths occur outside of a medical setting and more than half occur at home.”

More than 42,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2016, according to his statement.

“To manage opioid addiction and prevent future overdoses, increased naloxone availability must occur in conjunction with expanded access to evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder,” he said.

Naloxone is available over the counter in most states and is regularly used by first responders across the country.

The drug is increasingly being covered by insurance, according to the Network for Public Health Law, a nonprofit that helps government agencies.

As of July 2017, all 50 states have passed laws improving naloxone access, the nonprofit said.

Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage has opposed the push for using naloxone to combat the opioid crisis, arguing that it doesn’t treat addiction and merely discourages people from seeking treatment by essentially offering a safety net if they do overdose.

Supporters of the drug, meanwhile, argue that greater access to naloxone doesn’t draw people to illegal drug use or foster an addiction.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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