Resources & Education

February 1st, 2015

Naloxone: The Potentially Life-Saving Opiate Antidote Drug

OD Overdose Pill Capsules Medication Drug AddictAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths from drug overdoses have been steadily rising over the past several decades and are now reaching epic proportions across the United States. In 2013, over 16,000 deaths were related to opioid analgesics, also known as pain relievers or prescription painkillers.

For Americans living with chronic, or debilitating pain, the relief that can be realized from prescription painkillers may be the difference between maintaining a functional lifestyle and succumbing to a pain that overwhelms all other daily responsibilities. The significant impact that opioids can have on alleviating chronic pain can often lead even the most responsible prescription drug user into a spiral of dependency.

Opioid drugs include both prescriptions medications, and illegal drugs, such as:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
  • Methadone
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Codeine
  • And other prescription pain medications

According to a report published by the CDC in 2012 that included data from 28 states, while heroin deaths increased significantly over the past several years, twice as many people died from prescription opioid overdoses as died from heroin that year.

When opiates, or opioids are introduced into the body, they attach to specific proteins called opioid receptors, causing the body to relax, and breathing to slow. During an over-consumption of opiates, this relaxed breathing can reach deadly levels in a time span of only one to three hours, and can ultimately lead to death.

What is Naloxone?
Those at risk for opiate drug overdoses, and their loved ones, are finding hope in an opiate overdose antidote known in its generic form as naloxone.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved naloxone for use in 1971. Naloxone and its brand name versions, Narcan and Evzio, are prescription-only opiate reversal drugs that have already been used to save thousands of lives, and according to recent studies, they have the potential to reduce overdose deaths by up to 50 percent. Naloxone is non-toxic and non-addictive, and can be administered intravenously, or through the patient’s nasal passage.

Naloxone competes with opioids in binding to the protein receptor sites. By literally blocking the opioid’s ability to attach to the receptors, it can reverse the effects of the drugs and prevent death.

For more information on opiate overdose prevention training available in Western New York, contact Horizon Health Services, a non-profit organization that provides assistance to individuals with mental health and/or substance abuse issues. Horizon Health Services offers an Opiate Overdose Prevention Kit and Training Courses that are available throughout the year. Check the website for a calendar.

And for more information on this topic, the following articles may be helpful…

How to recognize and help prevent accidental overdose
Preventing overdose: The 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Law


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