Drug War

Naloxone Reverses Drug Overdoses, Saves 10,000 Lives


Trainspotting, overdose, gurney, Ewan McGregor Obi-Wan Kenobi

Since 1996, naloxone has reversed 10,171 drug overdoses, saving thousands of lives, according to a new study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Naloxone hydrochloride (also known as Narcan) stops an overdose on opiates and helps restore regular breathing and consciousness. Once injected, naloxone can reverse an overdose as quickly as under a minute. Since naloxone is an opiate antagonist, it's not effective to stop an overdose on cocaine, alcohol, or benzodiazepines.

First approved by the FDA in the 1970s, naloxone was used only in emergency rooms and ambulances. But thanks to community-based programs, the drug has seen wider distribution in 15 states and Washington, D.C. According to the CDC, there is a direct correlation between harm reduction policies and saving lives:

Nineteen (76.0%) of the 25 states with 2008 drug overdose death rates higher than the median and nine (69.2%) of the 13 states in the highest quartile did not have a community-based opioid overdose prevention program that distributed naloxone.

Nationwide, drug overdose deaths have tripled since 1990. In 2008, there were over 36,000 drug overdose deaths. This actually topped car crashes as the leading cause of accidental deaths. That same year, more than 20,000 people died from a prescription painkiller overdose. Nevertheless, Eliza Wheeler, one of the authors of the report and program manager at the Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC), was ultimately optimistic:

Thousands of fatal overdoses occur every year, but this report shows that we can reduce overdose deaths by giving members of the community the right information, training, and tools.

Indeed, naloxone has enormous potential to save even more lives: Almost three-quarters of the drug overdoses in 2008 were from opiates. Because of this, Sharon Stancliff, the medical director of the HRC, wants naloxone to be sold over-the-counter. Time magazine explains the reasoning:

The drug is safe and nonaddictive and it cannot be misused (indeed, it blocks the action of opioids, so it produces the opposite of a high), and so the more places it is available, the more likely that it will be within reach when needed. The possibility of a wider market would also be likely to spur more manufacturing of the drug.

To further stop overdoses, more states could pass "Good Samaritan" laws. This medical amnesty legally protects those who call 911 and report a drug overdose. So far, only New York, New Mexico, Connecticut, Illinois, and Washington state have enacted Good Samaritan laws.

Reason on drug policy. For more on harm reduction, check out the Drug Policy Alliance and the Harm Reduction Coalition.

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  1. Well, Narcan (Naloxone) is wonderful stuff – I guess. It’s one of a handful of really cool meds that give medical people really instant gratification; the guy comes in almost dead, you inject the stuff into him and a minute later he’s sitting up on the gurney talking to you like nothing happened. Were that he were a SIDS baby instead of a heroin addict, ya know? I’ve saved many lives with Narcan and most every time when it was all over, I must admit, I sort of wondered what was the point; wasn’t Mr. Darwin trying to tell us something here? But it wasn’t mine to decide or to overtly judge. Just fix ’em up and send ’em back out so they can do it again.

    1. ime, a minute later he is INCREDIBLY pissed off since narcan essentially is like withdrawal in a needle. iow, people “wake up” almost always pissed off and even combative when given narcan.

      it is an AWESOME drug though

    2. Just fix ’em up and send ’em back out so they can do it again.

      No. Send them to Dr Lance Gooberman. Gooberman was one of the first doctors to bring rapid detox to the US. He is the inventor of Naltrexone implant maintenance therapy.



  2. I was expecting a nut punch at the end, something along the lines of “Chuck Schumer has asked the FDA to rescind its approval, since naloxone will encourage more drug use. Mr. Schumer was quoted as saying ‘I’d rather just have the junkies die.'”.

    Or maybe we could bring it all above board, and sell drugs on known purity/strength/dosage made in quality controlled labs.

    1. most heroin/opioid OD’s don’t happen because of unknown strength. fwiw, recently, there have been a metric assload of opioid OD’s on drugs like oxy, which ARE a known purity/strength/dosage. again, this is people falling prey to what they see on teevee and in movies, the dreaded “hot shot” .

      most opioid OD’s happen because a person tries to quit, loses their tolerance, relapses and while doing so, uses one of their “former doses” that they were fine with WHEN they had a tolerance, but that would now result in death

      but again, that aside, narcan is a pretty incredible drug

  3. I have found that injecting Adrenaline directly into the heart works too.

    1. Protip: If you’re going into someone’s house to kill them, keep your gun with you at all times.

      1. And try to take a dump BEFORE you go there.

    2. Did you have to stab her three times?

  4. Minor quibble – it cannot be abused, it CAN be misused. The half life of most abused narcotics is significantly longer than narcan so if you just give one dose and fail to continue to monitor (or call 911) they will often stop breathing again.

  5. Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?

  6. The medics call the combination of Narcan and D50 a “Westside Cocktail”. It comes from so many IV drug abusers getting a hot load and nearly killing themselves, with only the cocktail bring them out of it. The medics now know not to give them the Narcan in a bolus, but to titrate it so it brings the pt back to consciousness, but doesn’t totally wake him up.

  7. Drug laws in general are stupid, but I really don’t like amnesty laws. They make a mockery of the rule of law.

    1. The drug laws themselves did that. I hardly think that amnesty laws could do more damage.

      1. It’s like when you bring in mongooses to take care of the snake problem, but in reality you merely exchange your snake problem for a mongoose problem.

        1. I’d see it as more of a bringing in anteaters to fix a termite problem that’s already too far gone. Sure, the aardvarks are gonna shit on the floor and claw up the drapes, but it really doesn’t matter, since the entire fucking house is full of holes and completely useless anyway.

        2. I’d see it as more of a bringing in anteaters to fix a termite problem that’s already too far gone. Sure, the aardvarks are gonna shit on the floor and claw up the drapes, but it really doesn’t matter, since the entire fucking house is full of holes and completely useless anyway.

      2. i gotta agree. amnesty laws are a good thing.

        they don’t mock the rule of law. they just establish proportion and put a little realism into the law.

        saving a life is more important than enforcing a law, especially a victimless one

        period. full stop

        and especially when worries about the victimless one often prevent people from calling 911 soon enough, etc. – these are the perfect example of GOOD rule of law.

        fwiw, i am in WA state. we have good samaritan laws. heck, a lot of cops would look the other way ANYWAY because it’s not right to try to prosecute somebody for trying to save a life.

        1. I wish more politicians agreed with you.
          Instead it often seems to me that they see the death and suffering caused by behavior they deem morally wrong as a feature, not something to be minimized.
          Hence the opposition to stuff like needle exchange etc.
          Heck i think the same mentality is at work when we talk about Plan B.

          1. WA state not only has needle exchange, but syringes are OTC.

            imo, it is unconscionable to require scripts for needles.

            GIVEN the people who are going to do IV/Subcutaneous/Instramuscular injections of illicit drugs (and note … SOME OTC drugs are also injected e.g. Humulin R – an insulin that is OTC), to require a script for needles just means you are ok with the idea of them reusing needles (bad), or even sharing them (very very very very bad).

            i don’t agree with the drug war, but GIVEN the drug war, it should still have SOME semblance of harm reduction.

            abcesses can be deadly, infectious diseases particularly Hep B can be ruinous and to a person with a compromised immune system?

            but again, these are the legislators PEOPLE ELECT
            and the fault lies SOLELY with them

            i would also note that in states with citizen initiative, they could legalize needles via popular vote, although hard to get popular support for something THIS critical, but with such an “unsavory” element

          2. most of those lawmakers are hypocrites. They do drugs all the time. How else do they come up with the insane laws they make?

  8. Good Samaritan exemption from liability is common law. The state must enact a positive law to inflict liability for the Good Samaritan.

  9. I keep reading that as Paxilon Hydrochlorate. http://firefly.wikia.com/wiki/…..rochlorate

  10. Those guys really seem to know exactly what the deal is. WOw.


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