As opioid overdose deaths rapidly increase, the U.S. Surgeon General is urging more people to carry naloxone, the overdose-reversal drug. The recommendation is strongly supported by The Connecticut State Medical Society.
With an estimated 2.1 million people in the U.S. struggling with an opioid use disorder, the advisory suggests that individuals, including family, friends, and those who are personally at risk of an opioid overdose, keep naloxone on hand.
Last year in Connecticut there were more than 1,000 accidental overdose deaths, according to the chief medical examiner - up from 357 in 2012. And more than half of those deaths involved fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.
But naloxone, a medication that can be administered as a nasal mist or injection, can temporarily suspend the effects of an overdose until emergency responders arrive.
Dr. Steven Thornquist, president of the Connecticut State Medical Society and co-chair of the opioid committee, said the reversal drug is available through a physician’s prescription or pharmacist.
“You can get naloxone without a prescription in most situations,” Thornquist said. “So it is now available in a pharmacy. The thing is that we need to make sure that all pharmacies are aware of that and that all pharmacies have the medication available.”
But Thornquist said it’s important to recognize that naloxone, also sold under the brand name Narcan, is a stopgap -- not a solution.
“It’s a life saving measure, but it’s not a solution to the addiction problem nor is it a final treatment,” Thornquist said. “Once you give Narcan you still need to call 911. You still need to get these people into the health care system and ideally into an addiction treatment program.”
Research shows a combination of medication, counseling, and behavioral therapy can help achieve long-term recovery.