Surgeon General urges greater access of life-saving opioid overdose reversal medication

Surgeon General urges greater access of life-saving opioid overdose reversal medication, naloxone.

TRI-CITIES, Wash. – Amid the ongoing opioid epidemic, the Surgeon General recently gave an unusual public advisory, urging loved ones of those at risk for opioid overdoses to carry and know how to use an overdose-reversal drug.

Now addiction specialists locally and nationwide are applauding this advisory. Action News sat down with addiction specialists in the Tri-Cities to learn why.

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a lifesaving medication that reverses opioid and heroin overdoses.

Now naloxone can be bought at local pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens.

The surgeon Jerome Adams just made an announcement at the National Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, encouraging family friends and those at risk for an overdose, to keep naloxone on hand. Adams announced that he is making this recommendation to use Naloxone as a life-saving measure.

Medical professionals locally and nationally like the idea.

"A lot of us were at that conference and we're in complete and full agreement,” said Jeffrey Allgaier, Md and addiction specialist at Ideal Option in Kennewick. “Most of the lives saved are from the friends and acquaintances of the people who overdose."

The American Society of Addiction Medicine also applauds the surgeon general for urging greater availability of life-saving opioid overdose reversal medication.

“We applaud the Surgeon General for recognizing the importance of having naloxone readily available in the case of opioid overdose and are hopeful that this new advisory will go a long way to ensure individuals at risk of opioid overdose will have the benefit of immediate access to a life-saving medication,” said Kelly J. Clark, MD, MBA, DFAPA, DFASAM, president of ASAM.

“We must do more to empower family members, friends, patients, and first responders to intervene safely and quickly in the event of an opioid-related overdose and to ensure that increased naloxone availability is paired with expanded access to comprehensive, evidence-based addiction treatment.”

This approach might seem counter intuitive, but addiction specialists said the evidence overwhelmingly backs up their claims for this treatment.

"Because the way addiction works it’s a chronic relapsing disorder and if we can give these folks, even one more chance, often when they get to us, we can help them so then they can turn around and have productive lives,” Dr. Allgaier said.

However, skeptics might say: Will an addict with naloxone then chase a higher high?

"The evidence so far says that the lives saved far outweighs the potential small moral hazard that comes along with it," Dr. Allgaier explained.

The other skeptic might say, but there’s cost issue attached to naloxone and doctors say that's another reasonable response. Two doses of Naloxone typically cost anywhere from $100 to $130 at the pharmacy.

However, addiction specialists stress that naloxone not only saves lives but it also saves dollars because overdose patients often need hundreds of thousand, if not millions of dollars, in medical expenses at the hospital.

"The amount of dollars saved is so much more when using naloxone, than when not using naloxone that it’s pretty unanimous in the medical community that we should be flooding the streets with it," Dr. Allgaier said.

The last skeptic might say, we shouldn’t be giving saving drug addicts.

"Addiction in general is a polarizing subject,” Dr. Ken Egly said. “Because it’s connected with crime, drugs, and infectious diseases.”

However, he said Naloxone is a lifesaving medication and it is a medication for a critical point in a disease process.

“That's not the time to make the judgement is right or wrong,” Dr. Egly said.

He said we should never devalue the life of a human being. He compared the argument that not giving an individual whose overdosed naloxone, is like not using a defibrillator on someone in cardiac arrest.

"Or someone diabetes, who is not managing their health and overweight, to me it's like withholding their insulin,” he said. “And is that the right thing to do?"

So, doctors said if you know someone who might need naloxone, and you haven't already—go get it.

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