Heroin overdose rescue stories are becoming more common as heroin makes a comeback in the U.S., hitting the Northeast particularly hard as painkiller abusers switch to the cheaper illicit drug. Heroin use gained more attention this week with the Philip Seymour Hoffman apparent overdose death. The Los Angeles Times says some federal data suggest that heroin use has roughly doubled across the nation, bringing a corresponding rise in pricey emergency responses and fatal overdoses.
Naloxone could play a big role in trying to fight off that increase in deaths, but it is not widely available to many users and emergency responders, despite a success rate that normally exceeds 80 percent or 90 percent, experts say. “No one really thought to have any particular policies in place expanding access to naloxone. No one was having those conversations,” said Meghan Ralston of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group. She called naloxone “an obscure little wonder drug that has been used with quiet success for decades. It’s incredibly safe and effective, and lawmakers don’t really know anything about it, except they’re hearing from physicians and others that we need to do more to get these drugs in the hands of moms and others” who know heroin and painkiller abusers, she said. Legislatures in blue and red states alike are considering proposals that would expand access to naloxone, with bills introduced by Democrats and Republicans.