04 Sep Gov. Chris Christie Expands Naloxone Access in N.J.
Naloxone is a life-saving antidote to certain types of drug overdoses. It works by reversing the effects of opioid narcotics like prescription painkillers and heroin. If administered in time, this drug can save lives. With abuse of heroin and prescriptions at all-time highs, overdoses are also rising. More lives could be saved from these accidental overdoses if naloxone were more readily available. Lawmakers and other officials are finally starting to realize this and are expanding access to this important drug. New Jersey is the latest state to make big changes regarding the availability of naloxone (Narcan).
Naloxone and Overdose Deaths
Deaths caused by accidental overdose on opioid drugs have been rising for years. The trend began more than a decade ago as people began abusing prescription painkillers in record numbers. Once hooked, it is very difficult to stop using these drugs and overdose becomes a real possibility. A new trend is a growth in the use of heroin, which is also highly addictive and carries with it a high risk of overdose. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths have tripled in the U.S. since 1990.
The prescription drug naloxone is related to opioids and can reverse their effects on the body. Naloxone works by filling in opioid receptor sites in the brain and unseating opioids that are already occupying the sites. When someone has taken too much of an opioid, an injection or inhalation of naloxone can immediately restore breathing and often save that person’s life. Because naloxone can be attained only by prescription, access to it has been problematic. But that trend is shifting. More first responders and ordinary citizens are getting access to the life-saving drug.
Naloxone Access in New Jersey
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took a big step recently in increasing the availability of naloxone. He just announced the expansion of a program that will get thousands of naloxone doses into the hands of emergency medical personnel, police officers and other first responders. The distribution of naloxone began as a pilot program in Monmouth and Ocean counties. That program has already saved lives, including 40 in the last two months, and will now be extended statewide.
Gov. Christie announced the expansion of the naloxone program while also criticizing the country’s war on drugs. Ocean County saw a record 112 drug overdose deaths in 2013 alone. The number doubled from the previous year. Christie also announced that his task force on heroin and opiate abuse will enact other measures to fight heroin and prescription drug abuse. These include changing laws regarding prescription drug monitoring, mandating treatment for first-time offenders and other legislative measures.
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