Surgeon General to Americans: Carry an Opioid Antidote More Often
On Thursday, the US Surgeon General issued an advisory to Americans recommending people to cary naloxone, the opioid overdose-reversing drug. The name brand Narcan, as well as others, can restore normal breathing very quickly in someone suspected of overdosing on opioids like heroin and prescription pain medications.
“Knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life,” says Dr. Jerome Adams. The surgeon general’s advisory is rarely used, which is what makes this announcement so significant. The last time a surgeon general’s advisory was issued was more than a decade ago and focused on women drinking during pregnancy.
Over recent years, the number of deaths from presription or illicit opioids has doubled, from 21,089 in 2010 to 42,249 in 2016. According to America’s top doctor, the steep increase can be attributed to a number of factors, especially “the rapid proliferation of illicitly made fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids” and “an increasing number of individuals receiving higher doses of prescription opioids for long-term management of chronic pain.”
Adams added “Research shows that when naloxone and overdose education are available to community members, overdose deaths decrease in those communities.” Currently, police officers, emergency medical techs and first responders use Naloxone to help reverse opioid overdose. Adams believes increasing the availability of naloxone and improving treatment methods will have a substantial impact on ending the opioid epidemic.
Although naloxone can save lives, there are still challenges ahead. “You’re basically saying, as a doctor, ‘I’m giving you this opioid for your pain, and by the way, you might kill yourself, so here’s this as well,’ “, says Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He also mentioned “The next step in this would be truly defining who is high-risk and should be getting narcan along with their opioid prescriptions.”