In response to the ongoing opioid epidemic, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends members of the community to carry an opioid-overdose antidote with them. The recommendation is another effort being made to combat the opioid epidemic that needs further long-term action.
Be Prepared. Get Naloxone. Save A Life.
In recent years, first responders such as police officers and EMTs already carry the drug with them in case of opioid overdose cases, but it may not be enough seeing as the rates of opioid overdose deaths continue to rise. In fact, the said death rates have doubled just between the years of 2010 and 2016 from over 21,000 death to over 42,000 deaths. According to Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day, which is about one death every 12.5 minutes.
As such, the Surgeon General's recent advisory calls for more members of the public to carry with them the known opioid overdose-reversing drug, naloxone, to potentially save lives. With members of the public armed with the overdose-antidote and the knowledge to properly administer it, such deaths can be prevented.
"Knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life," said Dr. Adams, also stating that there are people overdosing on opioids everywhere, whether people realize it or not.
So far, all states have passed laws to make naloxone easier to access, and most states have the Good Samaritan law or similar laws that protect people from criminal liabilities as a result of administering naloxone, and health care providers for prescribing it.
This is the first Surgeon General Advisory in 13 years, the last having dealt with alcohol use during pregnancy. Such advisories from the Surgeon General are issued when there are major public health problem and an urgent need to take action.
Increased Naloxone Access Not Enough?
Evidently, increased access to naloxone, as much as it could reduce opioid overdose deaths, could also lead to higher death rates, as per the findings of a recent study. Though the adverse effect of wider access to naloxone is unintentional, it also shows that there is a need to address the addiction itself and not just to prevent deaths, something that the Surgeon General agrees with.
"Addiction's a chronic disease. It's not a moral failing and there's not going to be a magic fix. It's important that we use naloxone as a bridge to definitive treatment and long-term recovery," said Dr. Adams.
Naturally, a major public health crisis will not be easily solved by a single advisory, but perhaps such a move could urge the public to take on a more pro-active part in saving the lives of those involved.