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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Narcan Antidote Continues Reversing Heroin Overdoses

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The heroin overdose antidote Narcan (naloxone) is saving lives, the more available the drug becomes, the more lives are saved. Nationwide, the drug naloxone is now more available to friends and families of addicts, as well as addicts themselves, the Los Angeles Times reports.

There are currently 17 states and the District of Columbia that have laws allowing the family and friends of those addicted to heroin or prescription opioids to have the antidote. Police departments around the country are being encouraged to carry Narcan by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Quincy, Massachusetts, police department was the first in the nation to see the advantages of Narcan; their officers were required to carry Narcan while on patrol. The requirement paid off, they reported a 95 percent success rate with Narcan treatment.

In the past, Narcan was used exclusively by paramedics and doctors, but by the time the patients arrive it is often too late to administer the life saving medicine. Providing the Narcan nasal spray to the addicts themselves has proven effective in reversing overdoses that could have led to fatalities. The medication blocks the ability of heroin or opioid painkillers to attach to brain cells.

As more and more prescription opiate addicts make the switch to heroin, states from coast to coast have seen a surge in heroin use. The rise in heroin use has led to a number of lawmakers to consider more relaxed laws on who can acquire the life saving antidote. Ohio is one state that has a bill they are considering that would allow distribution of Narcan, the article notes. The Ohio measure would increase the availability of naloxone to anyone “in a position to assist an individual who there is reason to believe is at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose.”

Wilson Compton, the Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says that when naloxone is injected into an overdose victim whose heart has not stopped, “it’s virtually 100 percent effective.” When overdose victims are discovered, “they’re kind of blue, they’re breathing very shallowly, or hardly breathing at all,” he said. “If this medication is administered [properly], they wake up within a minute or two. It’s remarkable. You save their life.”
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