Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and recently Philip Seymour Hoffman are part of the tragic list of people who have lost their lives to prescription drug overdoses. Despite the control around these medicines, it is becoming clear that the frequency of incidents of their overuse is not showing any sign of failing. But it seems an alternative to legislation has recently emerged, given hope to those left behind to help save future lives lost to drug overdose.
Stepping forward is Nalaxone, an anti-overdose drug which ironically is also a prescription-only medication. It is not a new drug, having been around for about five decades, but it is definitely on a new mission to save lives on a grand scale. Primarily, an overdose caused by drugs such as heroine or morphine affects the part of the central nervous system that is responsible for controlling breathing. As the level of these drugs increases in the victim, the breathing rate equally decreases until it stops. The collapse of the respiratory system leads to major damage in the brain and other organs.
Nalaxone has the ability to reverse the effects of a drug overdose thereby preventing death. It does this by displacing drugs from the receptors in the brain, that the drug has attached itself to. This displacement is due to the fact that these receptors prefer nalaxone to harmful drugs. By doing so, the Nalaxone drug is able to restores breathing back to its normal rate for about 45 minutes – enough time for paramedics to take over and purge the affected body.
Doctors in some English-speaking countries have been afraid of prescribing it, however, because it can almost appear as if they are aiding and abetting crime. Due to this problem, in the United States, 17 States have passed into law expanded access to Nalaxone and eight more States are considering to pass the same law. In the United Kingdom, Scotland started a pilot program in 2006. In 2008, the Wales Assembly initiated steps to introduce sites for ‘take home Nalaxone.” It can be given intravenously or via a nasal spray.
All around the world there is a growing consensus that something has to be done to curb death resulting from drug abuse. Last month the US department of justice attorney general’s Office released a statement calling the recent rise in drug-related deaths an “urgent public health crisis” that needs a holistic strategy in combating it. This month, the US Food and Drug Administration FDA, approved the first hand-held auto-injector of Nalaxone which makes it easier for a friend or a family member to treat someone who is experiencing an overdose immediately. Many believe this is a step in the right direction, despite the fact that the use of the drug is still considered a bit controversial – but it saves lives nonetheless.
Have you used nalaxone before or do you know of anyone who has been a victim of drug overdose?
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