Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Surgeon general urges friends and relatives of drug users to get overdose-reversing drug naloxone; issues public health advisory

Adams and Jody Jaggers of Kentucky Pharmacists
Association's Pharmacy Emergency Preparedness
(Photo by Mary Meehan, Ohio Valley ReSource)
The U.S. surgeon general has issued the first health advisory in 13 years, calling for everyone who has family or friends with any risk of opioid overdose to get naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose, and learn how to use it. More than 1,400 Kentuckians died from an overdose in 2016.

“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 to know how to administer naloxone," Surgeon General Jerome Adams said during a tour of the Northern Kentucky Health Department April 9 in Florence.

Adams mentioned the challenges of the stigma that surrounds addiction, and referred his younger brother, Philip, who he said has struggled from a substance-use disorder for years and is imprisoned for crimes he committed to feed his addiction, Terry DeMio reports for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"We need to see addiction as a chronic disease, not a moral failing," Adams said.

Adams called on the "medical community to step up" and to learn to recognize "who is at risk and to be able to intervene, or to refer where appropriate," Don Weber reports for Spectrum News.

He also said that while health-care providers are "doing a much better job of not over-prescribing," this often causes people to shift over to illegal heroin, "and there's a separate heroin epidemic within the opioid epidemic." Adams urged connecting people to evidence-based treatment, including the use of medication-assisted therapies, like naltrexone, methadone and buprenorphine.

Adams said he is well aware that many people say administering naloxone to revive an overdose victim is enabling further drug use, but he disagrees with them, Weber reports.

"I say that we are enabling recovery," Adams said. “I’ve heard from four different individuals this morning who were resuscitated each multiple times with naloxone. One is out sharing the good news about his fate, another one has two children who now have a father because of naloxone.”

Adams praised Kentucky for having more than 50 syringe exchange programs to combat the infectious diseases that come with intravenous drug use, like hepatitis C and HIV. He encouraged all communities to "have a conversation" and consider having one.

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy's website KyStopOverdoses allows you to search for pharmacies that carry naloxone by city, county or ZIP code. The cost varies, and insurance plans often cover it but may require a co-payment. Some health departments provide naloxone training and offer kits for free. You do not need a prescription for naloxone in Kentucky.

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