First Aid Drug for Opioid Overdose
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10-20-12 Category: Addiction Treatment

In America, overdose death caused by opioids, including prescription pain medication and heroin, is on the rise. More than 16,000 people died due to opioid-related overdoses in 2010, according to the most recent data available from a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Opioid overdoses have now surpassed automobile accidents as the top cause of accidental death in the United States. Overdoses caused by prescription medication now account for more than half of drug overdose deaths, and opioids cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

FDA Approval

As part of the government’s battle against rising opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose trends, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new device that provides first aid treatment for opioid overdose: Evzio, produced by kaléo, Inc. (formerly Intelliject, Inc.), of Richmond, Virginia.

This device’s fast-tracked approval is part of the government’s fight against opioid abuse and addiction, which also includes increasingly stricter regulation of opioid medication. The FDA approved the device in just 15 weeks because it provides an important, unmet medical need with minimal risks for negative effects.

Typically, the first person to arrive on the scene of an overdose is not a medical professional or a trained emergency responder; instead, it is a friend, family member, or caregiver. Prior to the FDA approval of this device, the only federally approved way to give someone Naloxone, which is used as an emergency antidote for an opioid overdose, required medical knowledge because the administration involves a needle and syringe.

Some states have worked on finding ways to make it easier for non-medical professionals to administer the drug, including passing legislation allowing lay people to administer the drug, and endorsement of a nasal spray version that is not yet approved by the FDA.

Properties Of  Evzio

Evzio will make it easy for people to administer first aid to a friend or family member who has overdosed on opioids. It works similar to an EpiPen (the auto-injection device that provides epinephrine to those suffering from a severe allergy attack), allowing someone with little or no training to easily, and safely, administer the drug. It even provides spoken instructions during use, much like the easy-to-use portable defibrillators that are now found in many public places and the homes of those with a high risk of having a heart attack.

Evzio holds a single dose of Naloxone, the same drug used by first responders and in emergency rooms to counter the initial effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone reverses the slowed breathing and respiratory depression that can lead to death. Evzio is small, about the size of a credit card with the thickness of a cell phone, making it easy to store in a first aid kit or even be carried by a person at risk of overdosing.

Evzio is designed so that the retractable auto-syringe can inject the contents into the thigh muscle, even through clothes. Although it is easy to use, the FDA and other experts still recommend training on proper use for loved ones and caregivers of someone at risk of an overdose.

The kit comes with a training version as well as the actual device. Additionally, it is highly recommended that caregivers and loved ones also learn the signs of an overdose in order to know when to administer the drug and call for emergency medical assistance.

Proper Application

This device is made to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. However, if it is administered to a person who has overdosed on some other substance, such as alcohol, it will not harm the person, although it will not provide any help.

Evzio, which will require a prescription, was not developed solely for people with a dependency or addiction on heroin or other opioid substances. People who are on high doses of prescribed opioid medications may accidentally take more than their recommended dosage, or have an unexpected drug interaction, and become victims of an accidental overdose.

It can also be used in hospital post-operative settings. Having this device on hand can help to prevent death from the overdoses. With this device on the market, doctors can prescribe it to patients at a high risk of an accidental overdose to have in their first aid arsenal to prevent death.

Naloxone does have some potentially dangerous side effects. It causes a sudden onset of withdrawal, which can result in nausea, vomiting, accelerated heart rate, increased blood pressure, and seizures. The person might also become combative and agitated. It also does not actually reverse the overdose, it just temporarily helps, providing time for emergency medical assistance to arrive and take over the care of the patient. Therefore, it is very important that after administering the device, the person calls 911 or otherwise receives professional medical treatment.

The price of the device has not yet been announced, but the manufacturer is hoping to have broad coverage by insurance companies. Some people fear that this device might cause additional problems, including people being less concerned with overdosing because they feel they have an option to ensure they do not die. However, the FDA and other experts say that although there may be some minor negative effects, the positive effects will far outweigh the negative.

Opioid Addiction Treatment at Sovereign Health Group

Sovereign Health Group offers state-of-the-art, evidence-based treatment for drug abuse and addiction. Our comprehensive program includes detox options, individual and group psychotherapy, and complementary alternative therapeutic activities such as yoga, meditation, equine therapy, art therapy, and music therapy. You can learn more about our programs here, or you can call our Admissions team at 866-264-9778.

photo credit: Irene Miranda via photopin cc

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