Combating Incidences of Opioid Overdoses

March 30, 2021
Abimbola Farinde, PharmD

Increased expansion and availability of naloxone may prove to be a monumental aspect of the public health response to the opioid crisis.

In the United States, the reports of opioid abuse and related deaths have become a common occurrence, and this trend was the most observable in 2017.1 With death tolls continuing to rise during that time period and the impact visible in many communities, immediate steps were needed to address the growing epidemic.

Given the alarming rates of opioid overdoses across the United States, many people and organizations have tried to shine a light on the issue.In a 2018 speech by President Donald Trump, he discussed an opioid plan that could implement the death penalty in some cases. This proposal has led to much greater attention on the magnitude of this growing problem.2

In an effort to stem opioid-related deaths, the United States surgeon general supported a landmark initiative that urged Americans to carry naloxone, an opioid antagonist, as a life-saving measure. The purpose of having naloxone on hand would be to revive an individual who may be experiencing an opioid overdose..3 The key signs of overdose include confusion, pinpoint pupils, cold or clammy skin, and breathing difficulties.

Increasing public knowledge of overdose signs is particularly important because the surgeon general has not issued an urgent warning about the issue since 2005. This only serves to highlight the gravity of the opioid epidemic and the lengths that should be taken to address the issue. Given the severity of the current opioid crisis, with approximately 66% of all US fatalities involving opioids being reported in 2016, an immediate call to action such as this was urgently needed to save additional lives from being lost.

As it currently stands, 46 states allow naloxone to be purchased without a prescription, although the laws in other states differ.4 Additionally, the CDC has directed health care providers to offer naloxone to individuals who may be deemed to be at risk for an overdose. The overall goal of this new, landmark advisory is to save lives from opioid overdoses.

Increased expansion and availability of naloxone may prove to be a monumental aspect of the public health response to the opioid crisis. With this awareness comes increased education on how to appropriately administer naloxone to an individual who may be experiencing an overdose.5

References

1. Kounang,N. (2017). Opioids now kill more people than breast cancer. CNN. Retrieved fromhttps://www.cnn.com/2017/12/21/health/drug-overdoses-2016-final-numbers/index.html

2. Diamond, D. (2018). Trump finalizing opioid plan that includes death penalty for dealers. Politico. Retrieved fromhttps://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/15/exclusive-trump-finalizing-opioid-plan-death-penalty-418488

3. Correal, A. & Dias, E. (2018). Naloxone stops opioid overdoses. How do you use it? The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/06/us/naloxone-narcan-opioid-overdose.html

4. Fleming, A. (2018). The overdose drug narcan is available in many states without a prescription. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-overdose-drug-narcan-is-available-in-many-states-without-a-prescription/2018/01/05/7b9d2010-dac0-11e7-a841-2066faf731ef_story.html?utm_term=.d935abf6a712

5. U.S Department of Health & Human Services. (2018). Surgeon general’s advisory on naloxone and opioid overdose. Retrieved from https://www.surgeongeneral.gov/priorities/opioid-overdose-prevention/naloxone-advisory.html