Opioid and heroin overdose antidotes are becoming easier to buy for family and friends of drug users or patients. These antidotes can hastily reverse the effects of a painkiller overdose.

One of these antidotes is naloxone, whose brand name is Narcan, which can immediately revive a person who has overdosed on opioids.

Naloxone can either be injected or sprayed into the unconscious person's nostrils. The drug can restore one's breathing and save that person from a near-death experience in just a few minutes.

Purchasing naloxone is much easier these days as almost every state has made such purchase legal. Prior to these laws, naloxone was mostly available in hospitals, clinics and through paramedics.

"This saves lives, doesn't seem to have any negative impact that we can identify, therefore it should be available," said Dr. Corey Waller from the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Along with independent drugstores across the country, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, Target, CVS and Walgreens are either in the process of widening the consumers' access to naloxone through pharmacies or are planning to do so.

But easier access to these opioid and heroin overdose antidotes still comes with several challenges. First of all, they are not cheap.

One dose can cost about $80, a price tag that often discourages someone with limited income, especially the ones with no insurance coverage. Moreover, consumers also need a pharmacist's assistance to get the antidotes.

Pharmacist John Beckner from the U.S. National Community Pharmacists Association commented that people can't treat these antidotes like an "over-the-counter decongestant." Beckner added that naloxone is a powerful product that requires instructions on how to properly use it.

Pharmacists can teach an average consumer how to administer the opioid or heroin antidote. Moreover, they can teach individuals how to spot drug overdose signs as well as what side effects to expect and how to deal with them.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 78 Americans die from an opioid overdose daily. From 2000 to 2014, approximately 500,000 people died due to a drug overdose. The epidemic reached its highest number of deaths to date in 2014.

Policymakers are looking for ways to fight the increasing epidemic. 

Photo: Global Panorama | Flickr

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