The nation's chief doctor wants more Americans to start carrying the overdose antidote naloxone in an effort to combat the nation's opioid crisis.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a public health advisory while speaking at a drug abuse summit in Atlanta.
Adams said he hopes those who are at risk - as well as their friends and family members - will keep the antidote on hand and learn how to use it. Now, a new study showed the threat of dying from one of those infections has dropped.
By administering a dose of naloxone, the effects of opioid overdose can be reversed, and a person can be brought back from the brink of death, affording them the opportunity to enter addiction recovery treatment and begin overcoming substance abuse. The number of overdose deaths from prescription and illicit drugs has soared in recent years, climbing from 21,089 in 2010 to 42,249 in 2016.
The drug, which is often referred to by the brand name Narcan, is available without a prescription in most states and is regularly used by first responders across the country.
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Adams said 95 per cent of all insured Americans are covered to purchase naloxone.
Most states also have laws created to protect health care professionals for prescribing and dispensing naloxone from civil and criminal liabilities, as well as Good Samaritan laws to protect people who administer naloxone or call for help during an opioid overdose emergency.
Generic, injectable versions of naloxone are cheaper.
According to the state Department of Health, one of the top goals in Washington's opioid response plan is to increase naloxone distribution in affected areas as local policies permit.
The Surgeon General added in a press release that in order to make the increased availability of naloxone to the community effective, it has to happen in conjunction with expanded access to treatment for opioid disorders. First responders already carry naloxone for emergencies. "I don't think we're seeing less patients because the crisis is over or is in decline".