Medicines the Reverse Overdose Reduce Opioid Deaths: Is It Positive for Our Society or Does It Encourage Opioid Use?

In 2017, almost fifty thousand Americans died of opioid-related overdoses. Unfortunately, this number is comparable to the number of deaths from gun violence and car accidents. However, research suggests that this exceptionally high number could have been lower if people had received Naloxone, the medication that reverses opioid-related overdoses. 

What Is Naloxone?

Naloxone is a highly effective, safe, and non-addictive opioid-related overdose medication available as a nasal spray or an injection. When it is used quickly following an overdose, Naloxone reduces the likelihood of brain damage from the reduced blood flow due to the overdose. However, to be effective, it has to be available at the time it is needed and administered by someone trained to give it. Currently, first responders equipped with this life-saving medicine include firefighters, EMTs, and police officers. However, even EMTs may not have Naloxone on hand when they need it, and most states within the United States only allow intermediate and advanced-level EMTs to carry and administer the drug. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country, basic-trained EMT’s are the only first responders instantly available in emergencies.

Another big problem is that the actual first responders are often friends and family of the individual using opioids and overdosing. Very few of these individuals have access to Naloxone. The need for someone close by to have access to this life-saving medication is imperative to battle the opioid crisis.  

How Is Naloxone Obtained by the Public, and At What Cost?

One obtains Naloxone through a prescription from a doctor, a community distribution center, or from pharmacies in states that do not require a prescription to get it. Currently, there are over 40 states that allow pharmacists to dispense this medication without a prescription. Unfortunately, many pharmacies do not stock it. 

Since opioid-related deaths are soaring, there is a push to make this life-saving medicine more available to the public. The general public exposed to opioid overdoses must have access to Naloxone because many witnesses of overdose hesitate when calling 911 for fear of arrest, losing government benefits, and the associated stigma or shame. Furthermore, health centers are training people who are likely to witness overdoses on how to recognize the signs of an overdose and then give them Naloxone for free. However, data suggests that communities with high opioid-related death rates do not have these programs available to their residents.

The price of some Naloxone medications has risen since 2009, sometimes almost doubling in price per dose. In 2017, a city in Ohio spent upwards of $35,000 in administered Naloxone in nearly one thousand opioid-overdose calls. This amount was three times the amount spent in the year prior. Unfortunately, due to these substantial cost increases, local government officials suggested refusing to resuscitate people who repeatedly overdose.

Naloxone is Cost-Effective for Society

The opioid crisis is hurting low-income communities due to the loss of economic productivity related to fatal overdoses. Therefore, Naloxone saves society money. Although it is an expense for the community, it leads to saving money since it keeps more of the workforce of that community alive and contributing to society. Therefore, the most cost-effective way to battle opioid-related deaths is to distribute Naloxone to all groups involved in the opioid crisis, including the general public, firefighters, police officers, and EMTs. If low-income communities have trouble affording the medicine, the next option is to give the medication to the general public in that area, and at least one first responder group assigned to that area.

The study found that when the general public, police officers, firefighters, and EMTs have Naloxone, it costs about $16,000 per year. Conversely, defibrillators used to revive those in cardiac arrest cost over $50,000 per year, while new cancer drugs cost over $100,000 per year. Therefore, Naloxone saves society money, and it even saves the cost associated with opioid use and the criminal justice system. 

Does Naloxone’s Availability Encourage Opioid Use?

Some argue that increasing access to Naloxone will encourage opioid use, saying that it becomes a sort of “safety net,” in which those who suffer an overdose may not feel the need to seek treatment for their substance use disorder (SUD). This belief system is known as a “moral hazard,” which occurs with life-saving interventions that encourage reckless behaviors. Historically, the opposition of seat belts and condoms fed into this idea of “moral hazard.” For example, society once thought that condoms would make people engage in more reckless sexual behaviors, and seat belts will make people engage in more reckless driving behaviors. Often, politicians and policymakers combine the “moral hazard” argument with discussions on budgets to oppose distributing Naloxone on a larger scale. Although there is no evidence that the availability of Naloxone encourages opioid use, the argument remains persistent.

The research shows that we can substantially decrease opioid-related overdoses with the increased availability of life-saving medicines such as Naloxone. However, the question of its availability creating an environment of promoted opioid use is persistent. Society as a whole and communities ravaged by the opioid crisis need to figure out what is best for their particular challenges in dealing with the opioid epidemic. Furthermore, treatment is available, and there is hope for life-long recovery. At Enlightened Solutions, we understand the ever-changing circumstances of addiction and that the development of a substance use disorder is a unique journey dependent upon many influences. If you or someone you know has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.


Opioid Addiction Terms To Know

Opioid Addiction Terms To Know

You may be suffering from addiction or know someone who does. You may now be entering a new world of addiction recovery that you know nothing about. By knowing specific terms in relation to addiction recovery, you will understand these terms when spoken to by a medical professional at a rehab center or your therapist.

Agonist

An agonist is a chemical that binds to a receptor in the brain which is what is responsible for producing a biological response. The drugs that lead to addiction and the medications used for addiction recovery affect the opioid receptors in the brain.

Antagonist

An antagonist may seem like the villain of the story when it is actually the hero. Its job is to block opioids from the brain by attaching to the opioid receptors without activation. All of the mood-altering effects that drugs can cause to you are stopped because of antagonists by blocking agonists from opioid receptors. Examples include naltrexone and naloxone. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This therapy changes the way you think by challenging negative thoughts, improving how you regulate emotions, and help you to find healthy ways to cope. 

Dependence

Dependence is when the body starts to get used to having this particular drug constantly in your system that it adapts to it. When you stop taking that drug, uncomfortable physical symptoms occur. Dependence is different than addiction in that a dependence on something will not always bring serious negative consequences to you such as having a dependence to caffeine.

Detoxification

Detoxification is the process where you manage your severe withdrawal symptoms in a short-term, supervised setting. It is said that if you detox without medication-assisted treatment, this will increase your chance of relapse.

Illicit 

An illicit drug is when the drug is illegal or against the law. Examples include heroin, marijuana, and meth. While the decision to take an illicit drug for the first time is voluntary, an unexpected addiction can make it seem like it is impossible to stop. Treatment at an in-patient rehab center is best option to stop in order to learn healthy and productive coping skills to maintain sobriety and achieve a happy life.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Also known as motivational interviewing, this form of therapy encourages positive behavior to better help people explore their own feelings. You learn to develop empathy to learn how your actions affect others. You also learn to better extinguish reality from fiction in understanding the seriousness of your problem compared to thinking that it is no big deal. This therapy also teaches you to have a positive response on this therapy, realizing how their behaviors are impacting your goals and relationships, and believing in your ability to achieve your goals.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

This condition occurs where drugs that the mother takes passes onto the fetus during pregnancy. This will cause the baby to become drug dependent and experience withdrawal symptoms after birth. This will not mean that a baby will be born addicted to drugs. Neonatal abstinence syndrome can be treated as well as prevented if mothers decide to treat their addiction before and during pregnancy.

Opiates

While originally derived from the opium poppy, opiates are synthetically made. Opiates can go from legal drugs like fentanyl, codeine, and morphine to illegal drugs like heroin and opium. These drugs are depressants that affect the brain’s pleasure systems and affects the brain’s ability to take in pain. Because of their intensely calming effects, these painkillers have high rates of abuse that lead to addiction. 

Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder is when substance use continues to happen to you despite the negative consequences that come as a result. It can happen as a result of a person’s genes, the reaction of the drug, peer pressure, feeling emotional distress, mental illness, or environmental factors. There are several stage in substance use disorder such as experimenting, regular use, the negative consequences, and addiction. While substance abuse disorder may not be easy to treat, it is possible when you are in the good hands of trained professionals and you have a strong support group.

Taper

Tapering is when you gradually decrease the amount of medication you take instead of stopping it cold turkey. If you are feeling dependence on a drug but you know the dangers of stopping it completely, a slow reduction in dosage over a long period of time can decrease withdrawal symptoms.

Tolerance 

It is possible that when you have taken a particular drug for a long time, your body becomes so used to it that you no longer achieve the euphoric effects that you felt before you started. When someone feels like they are not achieving the desired effects that they want, they decide to increase doses compared to their initial slow doses that were able to previously achieve the effect. 

Withdrawal

Withdrawal is when you feel uncomfortable physical and psychological effects when you stop taking a drug that you are dependent on. It is a way of telling your brain that you cannot survive without the drugs so your body will react in a way that will make you think you need the drugs in order to survive. These symptoms may include headaches, shakiness, racing heart, nausea, sweating, muscle tension, anxiety, depression, etc. By controlling your withdrawal symptoms going to detox as your first step towards treatment, you will be able to get through your recovery much more easily.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center using evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will be ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.