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According To The Surgeon General, Every American Should Carry This Life-Saving Drug

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Posted on : April 8, 2018

The opioid crisis in the US is continually getting worse.

Visits to emergency departments for opioid overdoses rose 30 percent in all parts of the US from July 2016 to September 2017, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, with an alarming 70 percent increase in the Midwestern region of the US. Between 2010 and 2016, deaths from prescription and illegal opioids more than doubled from 21,089 to 42,249.

With overdoses still on the rise, the Office of the Surgeon General has taken the unusual step of issuing a public health advisory, advising more Americans to carry, or be within reach of, the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

“Each day we lose 115 Americans to an opioid overdose – that’s one person every 12.5 minutes,” said Surgeon General Jerome Adams in a statement. “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.”

Naloxone is currently carried by emergency responders in the US. When administered, the drug reduces respiratory depression (slowing and shallowness of breathing) in patients who are experiencing an opioid overdose.

The drug is also given to opioid addicts (including heroin users) as part of an emergency overdose kit, which has been shown to reduce overdose deaths. Surgeon General Adams now advises more Americans to carry the drug, including the family and friends of those who are potentially at risk of an overdose.

“For patients currently taking high doses of opioids as prescribed for pain, individuals misusing prescription opioids, individuals using illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, health care practitioners, family and friends of people who have an opioid use disorder, and community members who come into contact with people at risk for opioid overdose, knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life,” the advisory reads.

Naloxone kits are available over the counter in most states, without a prescription. Tomas Nevesely/Shutterstock

Expanding the awareness of the availability of the medication, who can get it and how, should be a key part of the public health response to the ongoing opioid epidemic, Adams wrote in an article published in JAMA.

Adams is calling for people at risk of overdose, and their family or friends, to get trained in how to administer the drug, which can be injected intravenously, into muscles or as a nasal spray. Information on how to administer the drug, which is available over the counter in most states, can be obtained through pharmacies or at community-based programs.

The Surgeon General went on to offer assurance to people worried about lawsuits arising from administering the drug to suspected overdoses.

This is the first time that the Office of the Surgeon General has issued a public health warning like this in over a decade; the last time in 2005 warned the public about the dangers of drinking alcohol whilst pregnant.

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