Academic, community, first responder, government, and medical leaders call for better options to save lives.
Partnerships that include representatives from communities, government, and health care can play a key role in addressing opioid-related overdoses, according to a panel of experts who discussed the fentanyl crisis in the United States.
The panel, which included academic leaders, community leaders, first responders, government officials, and physicians, concluded that naloxone, which can be used to reverse opioid overdoses, should be made more readily available in communities.
“The increasing potency, coupled with an unpredictable environment, is contributing to the rise in morbidity and, in particular, mortality,” Christopher Jones, PharmD, acting director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a statement.
“I think naloxone should be readily available in communities. I think we can be empirical to some extent and data-driven in how we think about where we deploy it,” Jones said.
The panelists highlighted the crisis and discussed strategies for preventing further overdose-related deaths, which have increased dramatically.
An increase in highly potent and unpredictable drugs can make it difficult for individuals to understand what they are taking, especially, fentanyl pills, which can look like other prescription medications, the panelists noted.
Access to methadone continues to be a problem, and there are not many adequate infrastructure and resources for treatment, they agreed.
Additionally, the panelists discussed the importance of fast-tracking vaccine development for blocking the effects of fentanyl.
Furthermore, the panelists also emphasized the need for better access to injections and safe smoking supplies, as well as overdose prevention sites.
“When we instituted policies to limit prescribing opioids, we were successful in reducing prescriptions but not harm,” David Lawrence, MD, of David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California Los Angeles, said in the statement. “Although the fire may have been lit by opioid prescriptions, we did not put that fire out with the policies that were later implemented, and in fact, the problem has only become worse now than we’ve ever seen it before.”
The panelists also emphasized the importance of the media in educating the public about the opioid crisis and treatment options, saying that in addition to fostering public awareness about the crisis and treatments, health care workers also need more education.
Faith-based institutions, harm reduction and health services, justice systems, and social services should work together to address overdoses in each community, which can help reduce the stigma for individuals who use substances and their treatment in society.
Creative thinking is needed can make naloxone more readily available, which could help increase community engagement in addressing the issue and identify sites for naloxone distribution, the panelists concluded.
The suggestions made by the panel were published in The Permanente Journal on January 24, 2023.
Community collaboration and increased availability of naloxone key to addressing opioid-related overdoses in the United States say experts. EurekAlert. News release. January 24, 2023. Accessed January 24, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/977439