Naloxone: Should It Be Available or Not?

Naloxone: Should It Be Available or Not?

Naloxone: Should It Be Available or Not?

Naloxone is an antidote to a heroin or painkiller overdose. There is currently a debate as to whether naloxone, also known as its old brand name Narcon, should be available to the public without a prescription in order to prevent overdose deaths.

The Prevalence of Abuse

During the last decade in the U.S., heroin overdose deaths nearly doubled, rising from 1,725 in 1999 to 3,278 in 2009. Lethal overdoses from opiate painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin almost quadrupled during the same period, from 4,030 to 15,597. In response to the alarming increase, the Food and Drug Administration recently unveiled a proposal to distribute naloxone to the public.

Distribution by Public Health Officials

Naloxone is normally available only by prescription, but is issued for free by 50 programs in more than 188 locations across the country, usually state or local health departments and addiction support groups.

One example is the program begun in 2007 by the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services in Massachusetts, which has spent about $841,000 and saved nearly 1,300 lives. Other countries distributing the drug to the public include Britain, Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan.

The Pros

In the event of an overdose, seconds are precious. Once respiratory arrest happens, death is imminent. Making naloxone available to the public would give people the ability to prevent a loved one’s death while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. It is important to note drug users cannot use naloxone on themselves, as by the time they need it, they are unconscious.

The Cons

Easy access to naloxone may encourage drug use, trivialize the dangers of an overdose, or discourage users from seeking treatment. This is similar to the arguments used in the 1980s against making clean needles available to heroine addicts to prevent the spread of AIDS.

What do you think? Should the life saving antidote be available over the counter?

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Posted on July 31st, 2012 in Help Blog

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