Doctors Try to Make Heroin Overdose Antidote More Widely Available


Seven people have died of heroin overdoses in Cowlitz County, Wa., in the past week, says the Seattle Times. Last month, the same number died over a three-day span in King County after overdosing on a combination of heroin and other drugs. Year over year, the numbers are up in King County – 66 heroin deaths in 2011 compared with 50 in 2010. They’re up in Oregon, where statewide 143 people died from heroin overdose in 2011, compared with 90 in 2010. Washington does not keep statewide statistics. Heroin is available, potent and cheap, “$10 a hit,” says Dr. Karen Gunson, Oregon’s state medical examiner. “I think that we’re seeing just a huge influx.”

In the face of the rising death toll, the state of Washington in 2010 made the lifesaving opiate antidote Naloxone available by prescription. The drug, also known by several generic names, has long been used by paramedics and emergency-room doctors to pull overdose victims back from the brink of death. It’s legal, but it’s not widely available, said Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. “It’s an issue of needing enough demand. People don’t know to ask for it,” he said. Banta-Green is part of a push by academics and doctors to get Naloxone into pharmacies across the state.

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