Narcan May Save Lives But is it Enough?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 3 out of 5 deaths from drug overdose involve an opioid. Since 1999 the amounts of opioid overdoses have more than quadrupled. In 2015 the CDC recorded 33,091 deaths that were attributed to opioid overdose. A report given by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) estimated that an average of 91 Americans die every day from opioid overdose. As these numbers continue to rise people often ask “What we can do to slow down and hopefully stop these alarming statistics?”
Fortunately, there is an antidote for opioid overdose called Narcan (the name brand of Naloxone) that has the ability to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in order to help prevent death. Narcan is an opioid antagonist that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose. Initially, Narcan was used by first responders such as firefighters, police officers and paramedics however with the ever increasing rise of opioid-related deaths several communities across the country have begun to develop Narcan administration training programs for civilians.
One such community outreach program has been developed in Baltimore, Maryland. According to PBS, the city of Baltimore has an estimated 24,000 active heroin users; needless to say, the overdose-related deaths in Baltimore have increased substantially over the past five years. The city has begun to taking measures to fight back and has started training residents to administer Narcan. The Baltimore Health Department has reported that over 20,000 residents have been trained in the use of administering Narcan and at least 800 lives have been saved.
There is no doubt about it that Narcan is a life-saving drug. It has brought back thousands of people from an opioid overdose that may have otherwise died. Narcan has made huge contributions in the fight against the epidemic of opioid-related deaths but it is not a cure-all. A report by the Bangor Daily News from Bangor, Main featured an interview of one of their local first responders who stated that he very often sees the same people multiple times on overdose calls. The common issue surrounding those who have had to receive this medication multiple times is a lack of addiction treatment as a follow-up to their initial overdose treatment.
If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid or heroin abuse or even taking high amounts of opioids as prescribed, it has been advised to receive education on the use of Narcan and to learn the warning signs of an opioid overdose. Overdose and potential loss of life can happen to anyone using any form of opioid either illicit or prescribed. There are several community resources available to the public and according to CBS Denver, Narcan is now available to the public in Colorado for as little as $20.00 without a prescription. It is also recommended by the NIDA that someone who has been revived from an opioid overdose by Narcan still receive medical attention by trained medical professionals following the incident.
Narcan has become a very beneficial short-term solution for the rise in opioid overdose deaths however on its own it is not a long term solution. In order to truly cut down on the number of overdose deaths that occur on a daily basis in the United States, we need to work on getting more people access to quality long-term addiction treatment.