More than 115 Americans die every day due to an opioid overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
That terrifying number is part of the reason why White House officials unveiled a plan earlier this week to help combat the opioid crisis in the U.S. Among other things, the plan includes arming more first responders with naloxone to help treat overdoses.
But what is naloxone, exactly—and could it be the key to saving more lives?
Here’s what you need to know about this game-changing drug.
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WHAT IS NALOXONE?
Naloxone is a non-addictive, life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose when it’s given in time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.
The drug works by binding to opioid receptors in your body and reversing or blocking the effects of opioids like heroin, morphine, or hydrocodone, among others, according to James J. Galligan, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology and toxicology and director of the neuroscience program at Michigan State University.
People die of opioid overdoses because the drug binds to receptors on nerve cells that control breathing, Galligan explains.
Naloxone displaces the opiate from the receptors that are on the nerve cells that control respiration, and the victim is quickly revived. “It is truly amazing how well this drug works,” Galligan says.
There are a few different ways it can be administered, per the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids:
- Evzio auto-injector. This is the first auto-injector approved for non-clinical settings and has a retractable needle that, when a button is pressed, sticks the person who needs naloxone. It’s supposed to be used on the thigh and can go through someone’s clothes.
- Nasal spray. You simply hold this in one nostril of someone who has overdosed and spray it.
- Nasal atomizer. The concept is similar to the spray, but uses an atomizer to distribute the drug.
- Injection via syringe. Naloxone can be injected into the muscle of the upper thigh or upper arm.
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SOURCE: (Women’s Health)