People struggling with a substance use disorder should have naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, available and ready for use in their homes and communities.
This message, the focus of an advisory released by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H., on Thursday, came with a sense of urgency. “It is time to make sure more people have access to this lifesaving medication, because 77 percent of opioid overdose deaths occur outside of a medical setting and more than half occur at home,” he said.
Many first responders, such as emergency medical technicians and police officers, carry naloxone. But ensuring the medication, which is delivered through a nasal mist or injection, is on hand has become critical with the sharp rise in overdose deaths related to potent synthetic opioids including fentanyl. People often unknowingly use heroin or other drugs that have been laced with fentanyl, making access to naloxone a matter of life and death.
“We welcome the Surgeon General’s action and will continue to work with families and our partner organizations to get naloxone into the hands of those affected by the disease of addiction. As 174 lives were lost due to drug overdoses every day in 2016, it is critical that this opioid antidote is available to save the lives of more people. But addressing the symptoms of this disease alone will not end the crisis. If someone has a heart attack and is treated with a defibrillator, they are connected with a cardiologist. It will require a sustained and concerted effort to ensure people with substance use disorders are connected to addiction specialists and have increased access to evidence-based treatment options,” said Jessica Hulsey Nickel, president and chief executive officer of the Addiction Policy Forum.