CINCINNATI — It’s official: Ohio leads the nation in opioid-related overdose deaths.
There were almost 2,700 cases in 2015, which is a 28 percent increase from 2014, according to the newly released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention WONDER data that examine the number of reported opioid-related overdose deaths in each state.
While our state has made strides in addressing unsafe prescribing practices, combating drug trafficking, and expanding access to, and the availability of, naloxone, the opioid-overdose reversal medication, we have not been able to escape this unfortunate reality. Why?
As physicians work to implement new prescribing guidelines aimed at limiting patients’ exposure to opioids to help prevent future overdoses, naloxone, a potentially life-saving tool, isn’t getting into the hands of the people who are typically first at the scene of an overdose.
Community access to naloxone is part of the larger solution to the opioid epidemic that involves all Ohioans, and we must act now.
Overdoses are occurring in people’s homes, in our schools and libraries, and even on our roads.
It is of the utmost importance that our authorities ensure that residents across the state have the overdose antidote available to them. We must clearly outline where to get naloxone and how to use it, even for those who aren’t personally affected by the epidemic. Lives are being lost in unimaginable, yet extremely common places each day.
While unsafe prescribing practices have contributed to Ohio’s high rate of overdose deaths, we must ensure that ordinary people have access to easy-to-use naloxone products and understand how to use them.
Empowering our neighbors to have naloxone on-hand could prevent many of the thousands of lives lost year after year. Naloxone is the true first step in not only saving lives today, but also helping those in need of long-term rehabilitation get the care they need to overcome addiction.
Our government and community groups have done a tremendous job in putting this potentially life-saving medication in the hands of police officers and community-based organizations, which have played a crucial and effective role in preventing potentially fatal overdoses.
Additionally, our state has implemented policies that expand naloxone access on a broader level. Thanks to laws called Standing Orders, you can purchase naloxone without a prescription in nearly any pharmacy across state, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and Kroger. This brings naloxone into the community setting, where most overdoses occur. Even more, Ohio’s Good Samaritan law grants immunity to the victim and to those who call for medical assistance in an overdose emergency.
The policies are set in place to provide access to naloxone, but we need to make sure people understand them. Here’s what you need to know about naloxone in Ohio:
- Anyone can request naloxone from their pharmacist without presenting a hand-written or phoned-in doctor’s prescription.
- Most insurance covers the majority of the cost of naloxone; some pharmacies offer rebates for those without insurance.
- Naloxone is not an illicit drug and cannot itself cause an overdose.
- Naloxone works even if someone is not or appears not to be breathing.
- You should always call 911 in an overdose emergency. Ohio has laws protecting the rights of those who call for help.
There are two versions of naloxone approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
* A ready-to-use nasal spray called NARCAN(r) Nasal Spray
* An interactive muscular injection named EVZIO(r)
Could you imagine if community-friendly, easy-to-use naloxone were carried in purses and backpacks and stored in medicine cabinets across our region? Overdose deaths would dramatically decrease, lowering the tremendous burden associated with this horrible epidemic, and allowing those suffering from addiction to enter treatment and recovery programs.
When it comes down to it, in hard-hit states like Ohio, opioid overdoses are a community problem and require a community solution. By giving each of us the tools to save a life in an emergency situation, we can get that much closer to ending this epidemic.
No one should succumb to an overdose simply because bystanders weren’t aware of naloxone or how to get it. By ensuring Ohioans have the facts and ability to easily access and effectively administer naloxone, we can begin to release this state from the grip of opioid abuse and turn to recovery.
Dr. Shawn A. Ryan, an assistant professor and emergency medicine physician at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, is president of the Ohio Chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. He also is president and chief medical officer of BrightView LLC in Cincinnati.
Link to original article here: http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/01/with_ohio_no_1_in_opioid_overd.html?