is Naloxone the answer to the current opioid crisis?

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Naloxone is a drug used to temporarily halt the effects of opioids such as heroin, methadone and fentanyl and is often used as an antidote to an opioid overdose. In an opioid overdose breathing can slow down or stop, naloxone works to reverse that. It can be given intravenously, injected into the muscle or sprayed up the nose in the form of a nasal spray. The intravenous and injectable naloxone was first approved for use in the USA in 1971, whilst the naloxone nasal spray (patented and sold as Narcon) was approved as recently as four years ago.

Naloxone has been widely available and in use by medical professionals for four decades. In both the UK & USA Naloxone is regularly administered by paramedics and ER Doctors and other qualified to administer first responders, such as Police. In many states across America and in the UK, naloxone is also available from pharmacies with a prescription to those who are deemed to be at risk, or who are working with those at risk. It is also allowed to be supplied (to save a life) without a prescription by recognised drug treatment centres, drug outreach workers & needle exchanges and there is a concerted effort being made to get information, education and training out on the distribution and administration of the drug.

But is it enough?

The overdose epidemic in the U.S. has been called “the greatest public health crisis of our time.” More than 47, 000 people died in the USA of an opioid overdose in 2017. Prescriptions for addictive opioid painkillers are at an all-time high, in both the USA & UK, and the streets are flooded with illicitly made and illegally sold synthetic opioids. The draw back to naloxone is it is a temporary fix to a more permanent problem, like putting a band aid on a knife wound. naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose,

but it can’t prevent overdoses happening. There are treatments where naloxone is added to an opioid to assist withdrawal. However, the chances of a second or further overdoses are high, especially in long term addicts. Opioids are physically addictive so help with the physical withdrawal is important, but what is equally if not more important is fixing the underlying emotional problem. It is important that addicts can have access to treatment centres, drug education and twelve step recovery programmes.

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