From 2010 to 2016, the number of opioid-overdose related deaths jumped from 21,089 to 42,249.
No one in Kentucky is more than one person removed from the opioid epidemic, according to state health officials meeting Monday with U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. And according to the US surgeon general, 115 Americans die from opioid overdoses every day – that’s one person every 12.5 minutes.
The advisory emphasizes the importance of persons having naloxone on hand for patients now taking high doses of opioids as prescribed for pain, individuals misusing prescription opioids, individuals using illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, health care practitioners, family and friends of people who have an opioid use disorder, and community members who come into contact with people at risk for opioid overdose.
“We want every community member to be able to recognize who’s at risk for an overdose, to recognize signs and symptoms of an overdose, and if someone in your orbit is at risk for an overdose, we want you to know about, to carry and know how to administer naloxone”. In Kentucky, pharmacists can write a prescription for the drug which is often called Narcan, a brand name. Another product, Evzio, is available with a prescription and delivers naloxone via a hand-held auto-injector.
Adams said federal officials are working with pharmaceutical manufacturers now to make sure the drug is available at low or no cost to anyone who needs it-including the more costly autoinjector. Generic, injectable versions of naloxone are cheaper.
During a visit to the Northern Kentucky Health Department, Adams reiterated a need to see opioid addiction as a chronic illness, and share intervention programs that are evidence based.
Adams is also urging more federal funds be dedicated to increasing Narcan access on local levels. Adams said the president agrees that cost should not be a barrier for anyone.
Proponents, however, argue that greater access to naloxone doesn’t draw people to illegal drug use or foster an addiction.
Adams disagrees, stating, “There are people out there who think naloxone doesn’t make a difference: you’re just going to go on and misuse substances again”.
“We want to connect people to treatment; we don’t want to keep just resuscitating them”.
The last surgeon general advisory was issued in 2005 to warn pregnant women about the dangers of alcohol use.