In the first Surgeon General’s advisory in 13 years, Dr. Jerome Adams says people and families at risk of opioid abuse should keep a medication on hand to combat overdoses.
The U.S. Surgeon General is urging people and families at risk of opioid abuse to keep a medication on hand that reverses the effects of an overdose. The medication, naloxone, has become increasingly available at pharmacies without a prescription and is widely carried by police and emergency personnel. The advisory from Surgeon General Jerome Adams —the first surgeon general’s public health advisory in 13 years—reflects growing concern about the scope of an epidemic that saw a 21 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports the Wall Street Journal.
“It is time to make sure more people have access to this lifesaving medication, because 77% of opioid overdose deaths occur outside of a medical setting and more than half occur at home,” Dr. Adams said. Naloxone rapidly reverses an overdose of drugs such as morphine and heroin but must be given quickly to be effective. CVS Health and Walgreens say they will stock naloxone in the form of the nasal spray Narcan. The medication also is sold under the name Evzio. An estimated 2.1 million people in the U.S. struggle with an opioid addiction. Opioids include medications commonly prescribed to treat pain—such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone—as well as illegal drugs such as heroin. The sharpest increase in deaths has occurred with illicitly made versions of the pain-reliever fentanyl and its analogues, the surgeon general. Opioids can kill because they suppress the body’s urge to breathe. The last surgeon general’s advisory, in 2005, warned of the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.