Naloxone: Awareness, Access, and Stigma

Naloxone, also known as Narcan or Evzio, is a drug that temporarily reverses respiratory depression from opioid overdose. State laws vary, but naloxone is often available without a prescription from a pharmacist and comes as an injectable or nasal spray. First-responders, including paramedics, police officers, and firefighters, carry naloxone, but the law enforcement and behavioral health communities have pushed for the drug to be made widely available to combat the rise in overdose deaths over the last 15 years.

According to the CDC, 91 Americans a day die from opioid overdose, but increasing the availability of naloxone and educating people on how to administer it can help save lives. Studies show that distributing naloxone to at-risk opioid users and their loved ones decreases opioid overdose deaths by 30-45%. Access to naloxone also reduces further heroin consumption and visits to the Emergency Department.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association examined awareness and perception of naloxone among pharmacists, people with opioid use disorder, patients with chronic pain, and caregivers. They found that the people who would most benefit from receiving naloxone are often unaware of its availability. Among those aware of naloxone, a stigma exists both for patients, who worry about judgment from their pharmacists, and pharmacists, who don’t want to offend patients by offering the drug. The study concluded that more must be done to educate the public on naloxone and its importance for any person using opioids, because it is a vital tool in attempts to reverse the nation’s opioid overdose epidemic.

Watch Andrew’s story below to hear from someone whose own life was saved by naloxone.

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