• Between 1999 and 2012, opioid-related deaths over tripled from 1.4 to 5.1 per 100,000.
• Opioid painkillers are the most common prescription medication related to overdose deaths.
• A drug called naloxone can treat opioid overdoses. Administration of the treatment is easy because it can be sprayed into an unconscious person’s nose, does not require intravenous access, and reduces needle prick risks.
• Many states have reduced restrictions of naloxone use by emergency responders and have developed programs for naloxone distribution to opioid abusers in order to reduce opioid-associated mortality. There are at least 188 programs that currently distribute naloxone throughout the U.S.
• Over 10,000 successful opioid overdose reversals were reported between 1996 and 2010 by naloxone distribution programs. This shows that naloxone can prevent overdose death when administered by bystanders with limited training.
• Amended laws in 30 states now make it easier for medical professionals to prescribe and dispense naloxone, and for bystanders to administer it, by removing or reducing liability if something goes wrong.
• Good Samaritan Laws allow bystanders to call 911 to report an overdose without fear of arrest (Law Atlas The Policy Surveillance Portal, 2015).
• A community-based prevention program, Project Lazarus, partnered with local physicians and provided naloxone as part of their routine medical care to both suspected opioid abusers and pain patients who were at high risk for overdose. They also provided enhanced education for prescribing physicians. In that program, opioid-associated deaths decreased by 50% in one year.
In the last two decades, opioid prescribing has increased considerably in the U.S. This is partly due to significant changes in clinical practice guidelines for improved pain control. This may have lead to broader opioid prescribing for chronic pain leading to increased availability of opioids, and increased marketing of opioids. Naloxone is a therapeutic drug used for opioid overdose reversal currently used by first responders and hospitals. Overall, naloxone distribution and training programs have shown to be effective in reducing opioid associated mortality.
Coe, M.A., and Walsh, S.L. (2015).Distribution of naloxone for overdose prevention to chronic pain patients. Preventative Medicine. 80:41-43.