Every day, 78 people are dying due to drug overdoses in the United States. Naloxone, a drug that counters opioid overdoses, helps keep these deaths at bay, but critics are not convinced it's effective.
Naloxone cannot be abused and will not harm anyone who had not overdosed on opioids, so many consider it as a miracle drug. There's also the fact that up to thousands of people who have overdosed on opioids are brought back to life by the drug that makes it impressive.
The drug is not exactly new but it was mostly used in medical settings since it was made available in the 1970s. It still requires a prescription to obtain but states are moving to pass laws to make the drug easier to get, save for Wyoming, Montana and Kansas.
Critics stand behind these three states because they believe naloxone only offers drug users a safety net that allows them to take more risks in their search for higher highs. After all, it's not unusual for drug users to overdose several times and every time the drug is there to bring them back.
"Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose," said Maine Governor Paul LePage, vetoing legislation that would have facilitated access to the drug.
This is entirely plausible, but from the point of view of someone who has actually been given the drug, no one actually enjoys using naloxone. According to a heroin user who has experienced revival seven times, naloxone plunges the user into withdrawal and makes them "dope sick." Not only will drug users develop an intense desire for a bigger fix, but they'll also undergo vomiting, diarrhea, profuse sweating, runny noses and body aches so bad walking is so bad.
In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration moved to approve the use of Narcan, a nasal spray that administers naloxone. Commissioner Stephen Ostroff acknowledged that the drug will not solve the underlying causes of the opioid epidemic, but the agency is still facilitating reviews of new formulations that can be used to save lives that would otherwise have been lost to drug overdoses.
Prince may be the most popular example of an opioid overdose case that was subsequently reversed by naloxone. However, after his overdose on opiate painkiller Perocet from which he was saved, the famous singer overdosed on fentanyl six days after. Unfortunately, no one was present that time around who could have administered naloxone.
Photo: Governor Tom Wolf | Flickr