Photo Credit: Business Wire, http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160222005567/en/Walgreens-Naloxone-Prescription-Indiana-Pharmacies
Naloxone is an emergency drug used to reverse the life-threatening effects of overdose from certain opiate drugs. When opiates like oxycodone and heroin are taken, they bind to the opiate receptors in brain. Naloxone acts as an antidote by removing the opioids from the opioid receptors in the brainstem (Medline Plus, 2016). According to the CDC report, in 2014 there were more than 28,000 deaths due to opioid overdose (CDC, 2016). Since having access to Naloxone could potentially reduce the number of deaths due to drug overdose, an appeal was made in several states to have this drug available over the counter at Pharmacies. As of April 2016, 35 states in the US have Naloxone available over the counter (Whitman, 2016).
Many ER physicians are also in favor of making Naloxone available as an over-the-counter medication. In addition to reversing the action of opioid drugs on the receptors, Naloxone as a drug is not addictive because it does not make a person high, and does not have adverse side effects. If a person who is not addicted to opioids takes Naloxone, the drug will not have any effect on them. For these reasons physicians support and endorse the drug being available over-the-counter. Kathryn Hawk, an ER physician at Yale-Haven Hospital said that just like people with allergies have EpiPen handy at their homes, people who use opioid drugs must have Naloxone in their homes (Miller, 2015).
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On the flip side, there are quite a few limitations of this drug. Naloxone does not function as an antidote to all types of opiates. For instance, it is unable to reverse the effects of opiates such as buprenorphine (Belbuca) and pentazocine (Talwin). Also, a person who is experiencing an opiate overdose will not be able to treat themselves. One of the major concerns relating to making Naloxne available over-the-counter is that dependence on opiates may increase in the population. Since an antidote is available in the pharmacies, people may not properly analyze the risk of opioid addiction or dependence.
Making Naloxone available over-the-counter is indeed a necessary step towards reducing the number of deaths due to opioid overdose in the country. But this does not solve one of the main problems that our country faces: drug addiction. Strict policies and regulations must be put in place to reduce number of people who are addicted to drugs. People who have a drug addiction problem and have received rehabilitation must have regular follow-up so that they will be kept in check for their addiction issues. The fight against drug addiction must be not just the fight of family whose child or parent is addicted to drugs or an individual’s fight, it must be a fight of nation against an issue which is plagued our country for a long time and taken the lives of so many of its citizens.
CDC (2016). Injury Prevention & Control: Opioid Overdose. Retrieved on 26th July 2016 from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/
Medline Plus (2016). Naloxone Injection. Retrieved on 26th July 2016 from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a612022.html
Miller, S.G. (2015). Over-the –Counter Naloxone is a Great Thing, ‘Doc Says. Live Science. Retrieved on 26th July 2016 from http://www.livescience.com/52351-overdose-drug-naloxone-no-prescription.html
Whitman, E. (2016). Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: Walgreens Expands Over-the-Counter Naloxone to Pennsylvania. International Business Times. Retrieved on 26th July 2016 from http://www.ibtimes.com/fighting-opioid-epidemic-walgreens-expands-over counter-naloxone-pennsylvania-2351791