In Grass Valley, a Kmart pharmacy will now make naloxone available to any and all interested consumers without a prescription. Why does this matter? Naloxone is a drug known for its ability to stop the effects of an opiate overdose almost instantly. If someone has taken too much heroin or too many painkillers and an ambulance is called, naloxone is the first line of defense applied by emergency medical professionals upon arrival.
Now that it is available without a doctor’s prescription, friends and family members of those who are living with an active opiate addiction can make sure they have naloxone on hand to assist a loved one in crisis if the worst happens.
This is a big deal: A lifesaving drug that can be kept on hand at all times and hopefully used to avoid the worst effects of an overdose is no longer a theoretical option only available to medical professionals. Families and friends who may feel helpless in the face of a terrible addiction now have at least one tool that will help them deal with the situation and begin the process of regaining control of their own lives and helping their families heal.
Unfortunately, this change in the accessibility of naloxone does not come without a significant need fueled by high rates of opiate abuse, addiction, and overdose in Nevada. In 2013, 11,500 people in Nevada overdosed on heroin or opiate painkillers, a 50 percent increase over the decade prior, according to KNCO News Talk 830.
Bob Maier is a pharmacist at Kmart as well as a steering committee member of the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County. He says: “Opiate overdose is a concern for many of us in this community and naloxone can save lives. This is why I went through the process of becoming certified to distribute naloxone to anyone who needs it. People can come to my counter to purchase naloxone kits without a prescription and receive a brief training on how to administer this lifesaving drug.”
Not a Fail-Safe
It is important to note that while naloxone use can indeed save lives, it is not a fail-safe against deaths due to overdose. Here are some significant things to consider:
- An opiate overdose usually occurs because the drug slows heart rate and breathing rate so much that they stop completely and do not restart on their own. If an underlying medical disorder is triggered by use of opiates or if the medical emergency is unrelated to the use of opiate drugs, naloxone may not be effective.
- Naloxone does not help in the event that someone overdoses on anything but an opiate drug. That is, even if an opioid is a part of the drug cocktail that contributes to overdose, if the medical emergency at play is triggered by use of one of the other drugs, then naloxone will not help.
- Naloxone cannot help if it is not administered in time. This may sound simplistic, but overdose can occur and be life-threatening within minutes. Naloxone will not bring someone back if their breathing and heart rate have been stopped for more than a few minutes. Someone must not only be present but aware of what is happening and take immediate action.
- A person cannot generally self-administer naloxone if they are experiencing an overdose. In an overdose state, a person is usually incoherent or nonresponsive. There is not enough awareness of what is happening to recognize the nature of what is happening and process what needs to happen next.
One Step among Many
It is also important to note that naloxone is not a fix when addiction is an issue. There is no use of opiate drugs that is safe. None. There is absolutely no way to guarantee that a deadly overdose will not occur, even with naloxone on hand. There may be no one available to administer the drug, or others may not realize that an overdose is happening in time.
The only way to guarantee against a deadly overdose is to stop using all opiate drugs. For those who are living with an opiate addiction, this will require intensive, comprehensive addiction treatment and long-term support and follow-up care in recovery. Though naloxone can be a lifesaver, the real life-saving work comes through professional addiction treatment.
Learn more about where you can find naloxone in Nevada County by contacting Nevada County Behavioral Health. Then begin the process of seeking out a treatment program that will help your loved one to begin the healing process and help everyone in the family to regain control of their lives and futures.