As the opioid epidemic continues to ravage many Americans, aggressive tactics are being used to fight back. Earlier this month, the Surgeon General issued a statement urging Americans to start carrying the opioid overdose antidote, known as naloxone.
This is the first Surgeon General warning that has been issued in over a decade. The last warning issued referred to drinking during pregnancy.
The drug, which is commonly referred to as Narcan, can very quickly reverse suppressed breathing in an individual suspected of an opioid overdose. Essentially, naloxone puts the drug user into instant withdrawal, as it works quickly to reverse the physical and psychological effects of any opioid.
According to CNN, there has been a precipitous rise in opioid related overdose deaths in the past few years. Since 2010 the number of fatalities has doubled, with 42,249 opioid overdose deaths in 2016.
Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams stated that “knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life. Research shows that when naloxone and overdose education are available to community members, overdose deaths decrease in those communities.”
Naloxone is a powerful tool currently used by police officers, first responders and other emergency medical professionals, and is critical in fighting the deadly opioid epidemic. To have the Surgeon General issue an official warning places opioid abuse and opioid overdose in the mainstream public narrative.
According to CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, naloxone can absolutely save lives.
“You’re basically saying, as a doctor, ‘I’m giving you this opioid for your pain, and by the way, you might kill yourself, so here’s this as well’. The next step in this would be truly defining who is high-risk and should be getting Narcan along with their opioid prescriptions,” he said.