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The Surgeon General Urges More Americans to Carry Naloxone

Advocacy groups have long pushed for making more naloxone available to the public as a way to prevent overdoses. The surgeon general's advisory gives that effort a big boost.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams.

The surgeon general issued an advisory on Thursday urging more Americans to carry naloxone, the opioid overdose-reversing medicine. "America's doctor" recommended not only users of illicit opioids, but folks with legitimate, high-dose painkiller prescriptions and their family and friends, to have naloxone on hand.

People who have high-dose opioid prescriptions; people who use prescription painkillers or heroin recreationally; people with drug addictions; and all of those folks' family and friends are recommended to have naloxone on hand.

The advisory is aimed at reducing overdose deaths in the United States. In 2016, more than 53,000 Americans died of overdoses involving opioids, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When administered quickly and in high enough doses, naloxone can reverse nearly every opioid overdose. The drug outcompetes opioid molecules in the brain to return victims to consciousness and get them breathing again.

More than half of overdoses in America occur at home, which makes it especially helpful for family, friends, and roommates of people at risk for opioid poisoning—not just doctors, police officers, or EMTs—to have naloxone on hand, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said during a speech on Thursday at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. Indeed, although naloxone is a prescription medication, studies suggest most people can learn to administer it safely. Some community programs have offered naloxone doses and training to the public for years.

"No mother should ever have to bury her child and especially not when they have a lifesaving medication that virtually anyone can access," Adams said. "It is for this reason that I am issuing the first surgeon general's advisory in 13 years to bring awareness to and highlight the use of naloxone."