Did you know there is a drug that can prevent heroin overdose? Narcan, the heroin antidote, is not for sale to the public, but it does save lives. There are many ways Naloxone hydrochloride can save people from overdose, and many reasons it should be made available for people at risk.
The Rise of Heroin
Across the United States, heroin use is skyrocketing. In Vermont, heroin use is such a problem that the governor spent his entire 2014 State of the State address talking about ways to address the issue. In Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, the number of individuals who died from heroin overdose increased more than 6 times what it was 10 years ago. The reality is that heroin is cheap and it is available. Since the number of people addicted to costly, heroin-like prescription painkillers is rising quickly, there is a large population of addicted at-risk people who have the potential to turn to heroin. In Pennsylvania, for example, a person addicted to OxyContin might have to spend $60 on a single pill. Heroin, on the other hand, costs $8 — and because today’s heroin is purer, an addicted user will quickly become reliant on the dangerous drug. With heroin, just as with OxyContin, fatal overdose is possible.
An Effective Overdose Remedy and Delivery Device
People who buy illicit drugs such as heroin on the street can never be sure of the drug’s purity. Naloxone hydrochloride, also known as Narcan, prevents overdose in those who take too much of an opioid such as heroin, OxyContin, Vicodin, and other prescription painkillers. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a Narcan delivery device that automatically measures and injects the proper dosage with the understanding that members of the public would eventually be able to use the device themselves. The device, called Evzio, has clear instructions for use — similar to the instructions provided with a defibrillator. Emergency medical professionals also sometimes use Naloxone nasal spray. Whether injected or sprayed, however, those administering the antidote must be prepared for a violent reaction. “They’re coming off a high instantly, and they can turn extremely violent or trigger vomiting,” Cumberland County EMS official Nathan Harig told The Sentinel. “We’d worry about the airway,” he added. “We try to use enough to keep them breathing and then gradually wake them up.” Saving Lives The FDA reports that about 16,000 people die every year because of opioid-related overdose. In fact, fatal drug overdose is the biggest cause of injury death in the United States, causing even more fatalities than vehicle accidents. Narcan is easy to use, and it has the potential to save lives immediately.