Who can forget that hoot of a movie, where Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland take turns bringing each other back from a pharmacologically-induced death? I still recall the debate I had with my fellow residents who saw that movie: Didn’t the defibrillator paddles do more for Ms. Roberts’s sex appeal than that Louis Vuitton accessory that accompanied her during her last visit to Oprah?
Who would think that perhaps a significant segment of the population is about to become this generation’s Flatliners?
Rates of fatal drug overdoses have more than doubled in this country over the past ten years. In fact, drug overdose deaths hit a record high 38,329 in 2010, overtaking motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of preventable injury death. The majority of these deaths are associated with prescription opioids, trending along with the continuing rise in opioid prescribing. Is there something we can do to bring these overdose victims back from the edge—to keep them from killing themselves or others?
One answer is increasing the availability of naloxone to the lay public. Naloxone is most easily described as the “antidote” to opioids. And a recent analysis published earlier this month in “Annals of Internal Medicine” found the distribution of naloxone to members of the public for use during an opioid overdose to be clinically effective---and cost effective. Naloxone is a great drug, commonly used in the hospital and emergency settings to reverse the life-threatening effects of opioids. However, its use as a public health intervention is only recently being advocated with greater intensity.