The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently released a report that opioid-related overdoses have increased at a rate of 30% between 2016 and 2017. As the nation struggles to decide the best way to combat this epidemic, APIs like naloxone can be a light in the dark when it comes to reducing the damage done by harmful opioids. It has saved countless lives of those in crisis, by inhibiting or reversing the effects of opioids. However, this drug has recently attracted a lot of buzz in the media even as it continues to save lives around the country. See why this is, and how decision-makers everywhere can use naloxone as a tool rather than a total solution to the veritable crisis at hand.
Naloxone is often used to determine whether or not a person has accidentally overdosed on opioids. It cannot be used to replace traditional medical care, but it can be helpful for medical professionals who need a fast and accurate way to diagnose what’s happening. People who have seen the API in action have likened patient response to nothing less than a miracle. A once unresponsive patient may immediately regain consciousness which gives them an opportunity to alert the doctor of any potential medical conflicts. For example, the patient can let the doctor know they have a history of heart disease before the doctor moves forward with a treatment plan.
While naloxone may have once been traditionally used by trained emergency staff, it’s become far more popular amongst those familiar with the opioid epidemic. The risk of malpractice or liability concerns is astoundingly low, as it has been shown to reliably restore the breathing and the nervous system of the overdosed patient without a high level of risk. Unfortunately, the use of naloxone has become so common that it’s been known to be administered by heroin addicts to other heroin addicts in lieu of calling medical services or attempting to find a long-term solution to the problem.
This API recently came under scrutiny when a report was released by two economists in academia. Their paper has not been peer-reviewed as of yet, but their report suggests that naloxone does not necessarily save lives when it comes to opioid overdoses. They argue that the drug makes it easier for opioid users to continue their habits, thereby lengthening the gap between when they develop their addiction and when they seek long-term treatment. Due to the addictive powers of opioids, success rates for treatment are so low that Naloxone may not actually affect mortality rates in the area. It seems clear that naloxone cannot be used as a cure for the opioid epidemic but rather as a stepping stone to encourage additional treatment. Those who work with the drug should treat it as a just a single tool in an arsenal of weapons to fight this horrible disease.
How to Use Naloxone
Naloxone is typically injected directly into the muscle or into the vein via an IV. However, many believe the nasal version of the drug is safest because it decreases to risk of bloodborne diseases. It’s often given by the police officers who are first called to the scene, but it can be given by a family member, friend, or caregiver. Side effects of naloxone include irregular heartbeats, coughing, nausea, headaches, or even seizures. For the most part, naloxone is given to patients who are showing signs of an overdose — even if it’s later found out that the patient has an allergy to the drug. Those who are administering naloxone should not assume the overdose is over even if the symptoms drastically improve after giving the drug.
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