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How to deal with opioid overdoses effectively

When a person is prescribed opioid pain relievers for chronic pain, there is always the possibility of an overdose. People often become addicted to such drugs, making prescription drug abuse one of the biggest threats in the United States.

One of the key weapons in fighting the opioid epidemic is naloxone. It is an opioid antagonist that has been widely used by physicians and emergency medical providers for many years as an overdose risk mitigation intervention for opioid overdose patients.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is broad support for the use of naloxone due to its ability to save lives. Educating the masses about prescription drug overdoses, how to recognize and respond to them, and how to administer opioid overdose reversal medication is crucial to the fight against prescription drug abuse, the report says. It is “an important public health intervention to reduce mortality,” says the CDC report.

Community programs

The report admits that opioid overdose death rates have dropped significantly in communities where community programs have been implemented. These programs, which incorporate naloxone and provide training to people at risk and their loved ones on overdose prevention, must be popularized to combat the epidemic.

Help with helpful laws

Local legislation in various states has been very helpful in addressing the problem of opioid overdose. Some states have offered immunity from prosecution to encourage people to seek help during an overdose emergency. This allows people who have overdosed to seek treatment without fear.

Studies have revealed that people who overdose on opioids often refrain from calling emergency services for fear of arrest. The implementation of Washington’s Good Samaritan law, for example, a jump in the number of cases in which a drug user asked for help without hesitation.

Introducing overdose prevention activities, including education, training, and a safe and effective response to or treatment of an acute overdose event, can also be of great help.

Regarding the importance of naloxone, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012 collaborated with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Mental Health Services Administration and Substance Abuse (SAMHSA), and the CDC to discuss how to expand access to naloxone, potentially making it safer and easier to use. The FDA and NIH are collaborating with drug manufacturers to support the development of new formulations of naloxone, which can be used as nasal sprays or automatic injectors.

HHS is also providing funding and technical assistance to raise awareness about overdose prevention and to increase the number of people who respond to an overdose, including some first responders who have not received traditional training in overdose prevention and response. The CDC has conducted extensive research to gain an explicit understanding of the circumstances and risk factors for an overdose.

In order to develop a comprehensive computer-assisted overdose training curriculum for public safety personnel (PSPs), including police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians, NIH is also funding a Research Grant from Small Business Innovation that’s easy to access.

Top overdose prevention activities, as the report admits, are identified as opportunities to improve overdose prevention and expand current efforts to improve naloxone access and use.

A few other suggestions were also made in the CDC report to address prescription drug abuse in the country. They include:

  • Expand efforts to support the development of new formulations of naloxone, such as nasal spray formulations or autoinjectors.
  • Partner with national, state, and local EMS and other first aid organizations to disseminate information about the use of naloxone.
  • Evaluate naloxone programs to better understand how and under what conditions it is used most effectively.
  • Examine the impact of immunity from prosecution.

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