Can This Drug Solve the Opioid Epidemic?

Benjamin Olsen | @benpleasestop

There is hope on the horizon for America. For the first time in three decades, overdose deaths have stalled. Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, is hailed as the reason for this decline in overdose deaths. This is a major step forward in the battle against the opioid epidemic in America.

Opioids come in many forms, ranging from painkillers to heroin. Naloxone has been used since the early 70s and has found widespread use by paramedics and firefighters. In April, the FDA approved a generic form of Naloxone, and the results are in.

The New Reality

The CDC reported that high-dose opioid prescriptions were down 21% from 2016. From 2017 to 2018 alone, the prescription of Naloxone has increased by a factor of 2. The CDC also reports a chilling fact: for every 70 high-opioid prescriptions, only 1 is also prescribed with Naloxone. This could mean that as many as 69 people could die from their opioid prescription. That is almost 9 million people in the US that may die from a simple medicine they need to function throughout their day.

Many others do not require such strong medicines but are convinced by their doctors to take high doses. This gross malpractice is a leading cause in the ever-growing opioid epidemic in America. We may see a light at the end of the tunnel. However, with current laws and the lack of willingness to acknowledge the problem with big pharma, that light may just be an oncoming train.

A Tested and Proven Solution

Portugal is often brought up as the ideal solution to the issue of drugs in America. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized most drugs. Since then, their rates of HIV and overdose deaths have plummeted. Use by adolescents has decreased, and their opioid crisis is no more. It is a wonder that Portugal’s huge leap of faith is not more debated. Portugal is an amazing example of how humanitarian laws focused on helping people can make an ever-increasing impact.

Portugal’s solution may not work here due to both sides of the aisle balking at a simple way to fix this ever-growing epidemic. Because of this, we must start by making sure that the 69 others that are prescribed opioids are also prescribed Naloxone.

Many would ask why the government needs to be involved, and rightfully so. The issue is that, as it currently stands, the government does exist, and drugs that may save lives are caught up in endless bureaucracy in the form of the FDA. We need more than one solution to fight this ever-growing opioid crisis. Naloxone has driven overdoses down substantially, and one can only wonder what the opioid epidemic will look like if we continued these efforts.


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