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Naloxone and Opioid-Use Disorder.

Did you know that drug overdoses kill more Americans than car crashes?

The 2000s and 2010s have been an exciting time for technological advances and human equality movements. They have also been destructive for drug users and the families of those who are affected by opioid-use disorder.

There are many different types of opioid addictions that contribute to opioid-use disorder. In 2017 alone, the number of overdose deaths in North Carolina increased from 1,406 in 2016 to 1,884. In the wake of such devastation, the state’s government devised an opioid action plan (for 2017 – 2021) to hopefully reduce the rate of yearly opioid and opiate casualties by 20 percent. This detailed plan focuses on reducing the oversupplying of prescription opioids, expanding treatment options for individuals in need, and making naloxone more readily available.

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is an “opioid antagonist” used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose. It works by counteracting the effects of opioid drugs (such as morphine and heroin) on both the central nervous system and respiratory system. This drug, which can be administered via injection or as a nasal spray, helps the user regulate their breathing while their body is in fight-or-flight mode, temporarily allowing them to fight off the ill-effects of an overdose.

In a non-randomized study of naloxone co-prescription, researchers found that patients who had previously received long-term opioids had 47 percent fewer opioid-related ED visits per month in the six months following their prescription. In conclusion, the study found that prescribing naloxone in primary care settings may have certain benefits worth pursuing.

What’s more, there were 4,176 reported community naloxone reversals in 2017. The results were so convincing, in fact, that the number of law enforcement agencies carrying naloxone almost doubled between 2016 and 2018, increasing from 136 to 252 in total.

But does naloxone have to be medically prescribed, or should it be made accessible for addicts outside of the hospital setting?

Is Naloxone an Appropriate Option for Home Use?

Both NARCAN® Nasal Spray and EVZIO® – two popular naloxone nasal spray products – are easy to use for inexperienced individuals in emergency situations, which begs the question: Should naloxone be prescribed to all addicts for use in the wake of a relapse?

That is still up for debate, but there is little doubt that the benefits that come from taking naloxone are numerous. These benefits can potentially include:

  • A reversal of opioid effects
  • An easily accessible and usable emergency drug for those who are not medically trained
  • A solution that offers symptomatic, life-saving relief in as little as one dose
  • A drug that typically works within five minutes of administration

Dr. Hillary Kunins, a Providers Clinical Support System Clinical expert, is one of the many professionals who sees the benefits of Naloxone. She believes that the layperson distribution of naloxone is a “strategy” to help those who are at risk reduce the chance of an overdose.

So, who is technically at risk?

The Cons of Naloxone

With activists fighting for over-the-counter versions of this opioid treatment method, there are still concerns over who should be given naloxone for home use. While recovering addicts who have made commitments to rehabilitation treatments might seem like obvious candidates, other addicts who may have only suffered from an overdose once or twice (or never at all) are not quite as obvious – especially if they’ve never attempted to seek professional help.

Keeping naloxone readily available at all times can certainly reduce a user’s chances of passing from an overdose in dire situations. But some addicts may look at naloxone as a fail-safe in the event of an overdose. There is a real fear that these people would see naloxone as a way to ensure their safety while using, thus promoting opioid abuse rather than leading the fight against it.

Do the Benefits of Naloxone Outweigh the Negatives?

The short answer is yes, but it is still too difficult for the medical community to universally agree on easily accessible home-use prescriptions or over-the-counter options. There is no question that naloxone saves lives, and in the wake of the country’s current opioid and opiate epidemic, that should be every state’s number one priority. However, that does not mean distributors shouldn’t look to the future. Is there a chance that the unsupervised distribution of naloxone could cause more problems for an already devastating issue? Yes. Does that mean chances shouldn’t be taken? Well…

Regardless of your stance on naloxone, most agree that opioid addicts should always seek professional treatment from a rehabilitation facility like Mountainview Recovery near Asheville, North Carolina. This way, they can avoid the “what ifs” and focus on what matters most – getting clean before the use of drugs such as naloxone become necessary. With our team of experienced experts by an addict’s side, struggling individuals can get back to living the life they were meant to live, drug-free.

For more information on how Mountainview Recovery, located in Asheville, North Carolina, can help struggling opiate, non-opiate, and alcohol addicts get back on their feet, visit www.mountainviewrecovery.com.