Surgeon General Says More Americans Should Carry Naloxone

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams is now recommending that more individuals, including family, friends, and those who are personally at risk for an opioid overdose, keep the drug on hand.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, M.D., MPH, issued a public health advisory in which he says more Americans should carry naloxone, the drug that can reverse an opioid overdose and thus possibly save a life. It is already carried by many first responders, such as EMTs and police officers, but Adams is now recommending that more individuals, including family, friends, and those who are personally at risk for an opioid overdose, keep the drug on hand.

According to HHS, an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States have opioid use disorder. Opioid overdose deaths are rapidly rising and, since 2010, the number of opioid overdose deaths has doubled from more than 21,000 to more than 42,000 in 2016, with the sharpest increase occurring among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.

"Each day, we lose 115 Americans to an opioid overdose – that's one person every 12.5 minutes," Adams said. "It is time to make sure more people have access to this lifesaving medication, because 77 percent of opioid overdose deaths occur outside of a medical setting and more than half occur at home. To manage opioid addiction and prevent future overdoses, increased naloxone availability must occur in conjunction with expanded access to evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder."

In most states, people can walk into a pharmacy and request naloxone even if you don't already have a prescription, and most states have laws designed to protect health care professionals for prescribing and dispensing naloxone from civil and criminal liabilities, as well as Good Samaritan laws to protect people who administer naloxone or call for help during an opioid overdose emergency.

The FDA-approved drug is covered by most insurance plans, and it is easy to use and safe to administer.

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