Naloxone is the product of incredible medical breakthroughs. It functions to reverse the effects of opioid overdose, a remarkable feat and a much needed one in light of the spreading opioid epidemic. When an individual has overdosed on heroin, fentanyl or painkillers, Naloxone can be administered to them intramuscularly or nasally. It works to block the opioid receptors in the central nervous system.
The mechanism of action is not completely understood at the chemical level, but we do know that it saves lives. In fact, over 30,000 overdoses were reversed through use of Naloxone between 2010 and 2014.
In many states, Naloxone is available for purchase directly from the pharmacist, without a prescription needed. Additionally, many states require that paramedics and law enforcement personnel carry the drug with them. While these policies are good and have made a dent in the opioid crisis, additional policy changes could improve the status further.
Some of the obstacles include the lack of “good Samaritan” laws and the high price of the drug. High prices are limiting for obvious reasons, especially in the case of those supporting an active addiction.
The disease of addiction is going to drive an individual to get the next fix, not to go stock up on Naloxone incase things go south. Good Samaritan laws provide legal immunity to individuals who respond in emergency situations. In the case of overdoses, this would mean that the individual who called the ambulance could not be charged with possession themselves, even if they were also using.
The person who called would be able to ensure the administration of Naloxone and help save a life without fear of being arrested in the very same moment. These laws prioritize saving lives over punishing crimes. States like Texas, Montana, South Carolina, and Arizona currently have no Good Samaritan policies in place for the event of drug related emergencies.
Naloxone is responsible for saving countless lives. In recent years, policies have improved dramatically, making Naloxone more accessible. But there are still lives to be saved as we learn how to optimize the use of this life-saving drug.