In a bid to combat the soaring rates of opioid-related fatalities in the United States, first responders and public health officials across the country equip themselves with overdose reversal medicine naloxone, marketed under the brand name Narcan. However, a new study by researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston suggested that 10 percent of opioid users in Massachusetts who were revived from an overdose died within a year.
According to the study, about 93.5 percent of people survived the overdose after being administered naloxone. But, within a year after receiving their overdose reversal drug, only 84.3 percent of the individuals were still alive. The study took into account over 12,000 dosages of naloxone administered between July 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2015.
“The opioid overdose patient who sobers in the hallway, is offered a detox list, and then is discharged has a one-in-10 chance of being dead within one year, and their highest risk is within the first month,” said lead researcher Dr. Scott Weiner. Weiner said those who were initially rescued with naloxone later died of an overdose because they couldn’t control the irresistible withdrawal urges, which led them to overdose on opioids or heroin in a matter of weeks. Weiner said that though naloxone may reverse the effects of an overdose temporarily, “it doesn’t treat the underlying problem.”
Till 2014, only 12 states authorized emergency medical services (EMS) staff to administer naloxone for overdose. Today, the law permits anyone to administer the drug to save lives. In the past two decades, the opioid epidemic has spread like a wild fire across the length and breadth of the nation without a definite end in sight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription drugs and heroin) has quadrupled since 1999. The CDC data also shows that 91 Americans succumb to an opioid overdose every day in the country.
Studies show that prescription opioid abuse may open the door to heroin addiction. With chemically identical structures and abilities to act on the same areas in the brain, both prescription opioids and heroin are known to create similar euphoric highs in a user. Research shows that the majority of heroin users in America today were first addicted to prescription drugs. Higher costs and valid medical prescriptions as a mandatory prerequisite are the main reasons cited for switching to heroin, which is easily available on the streets for a much lesser price.
Naloxone no excuse to abuse an opioid or heroin
Unfortunately, many people have begun viewing naloxone as an excuse to abuse opioid drugs. Though a single shot of naloxone is known to deactivate the opiate receptors in the body and blocks the overdose effects, it shouldn’t be seen as a license to abuse opioids. Sadly, innumerable drug users feel that it is safe to use opioids and tend to disregard the need to seek medical intervention to treat addiction, confusing naloxone with recovery. Experts feel that the naloxone kit should be the last option, when nothing seems to work.
As naloxone is administered in an emergency situation, paramedics or caregivers may not be aware of any specific health condition or possible ailment that could trigger an adverse reaction in the individual. Moreover, pregnant women, lactating mothers or alcoholics and those on other painkillers could be susceptible to the side effects of naloxone.
Leading an addiction-free life
The opioid and heroin overdose has reached deadly proportions, plunging the U.S. into a deadly crisis. It is critical that people struggling with painful conditions are educated about the potential risks associated with prolonged opioid use. It is recommended to inform one’s doctor about their medical history and other medications or supplements they are taking.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to prescription opioids or heroin, contact Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California, which offers a customized treatment for addiction. Our licensed clinicians use several approaches to resolving each underlying problem. Programs at our addiction treatment centers are tailored to individual needs in order to treat the person holistically. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives for more information.