Naloxone’s Unintended Effects as Overdose Antidote

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Every day, many people who overdose on opioids are brought back to life with naloxone. Hailed as a miracle drug, it carries no health risk; it cannot be abused and, if given mistakenly to someone who has not overdosed, does no harm, reports the New York Times. With 78 people in the U.S. dying of overdoses every day, naloxone’s use has moved out of medical settings, where it has been available since the 1970s, into the hands of the general public. Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, has had unintended consequences. Critics say that it gives drug users a safety net, allowing them to take more risks as they seek higher highs. Many users overdose more than once, some multiple times, and each time, naloxone brings them back.

Advocates say that the drug gives people a chance to get into treatment and turn their lives around. Few addicts knowingly risk needing to be revived, because naloxone ruins their high and can make them violently ill. With drug overdoses now killing more people than car crashes in most states, lawmakers in all but Kansas, Montana, and Wyoming have made naloxone easier to obtain. Its near-universal availability reflects the relatively humane response to the opioid epidemic, which is based largely in the nation’s white, middle-class suburbs and rural areas. The more compassionate response has been on display at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Speakers there have talked about addiction and the need for more accessible treatment, and a call by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire for all emergency responders to carry naloxone drew applause from the delegates.

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