This month, the United States will surpass a once-unimaginable milestone: more than 100,000 people have died of an overdose in the past year, the most ever recorded. In the midst of this crisis, harm reduction programs are preventing even more overdose deaths by making available the easy-to-use antidote naloxone to people who use drugs.
A research team at the University of Washington has developed a wearable device to detect and reverse an opioid overdose. The device, worn on the stomach like an insulin pump, senses when a person stops breathing and moving, and injects naloxone, a lifesaving antidote that can restore respiration.
The American Medical Association commends the Biden Administration for responding to the spike in drug overdoses with an evidence-based, humane approach to increasing access to care for patients with a substance use disorder and harm reduction services. This plan recognizes that individuals, families and communities have been decimated by this public health epidemic. The AMA has urged a public health response that focuses on how to best treat substance use disorders as well as prevent overdoses and encourage recovery. This comprehensive approach recognizes that we need an inclusive federal approach—free of stigma—based on best available data. An inclusive approach means embracing the variety of harm reduction strategies. We have advocated for naloxone to be sold over the counter, for fentanyl test strips, for widespread access to sterile needle and syringe exchange services.
The medication naloxone is so effective at saving the lives of opioid overdose victims that some people worry that it might make drug users think heroin and related drugs are no longer risky. But a new study suggests that is not the case. Increased access to naloxone didn’t lead Americans, even drug users, to think heroin was less risky, the findings showed.
The test of change for the nasal spray – which is used as an emergency first aid response to suspected opioid or opiate-related drug overdoses – is the largest of its kind in UK policing, and has attracted significant interest from forces both in the UK and around the world. Nearly 800 officers have now completed training to use the intra-nasal spray devices, with 81 per cent volunteering to carry the kits during the trial period.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the International Overdose Awareness Day campaign, started in 2001 by The Salvation Army in Melbourne, Australia. This day is an opportunity to remember loved ones lost to overdose, emphasising that the tragedy of an overdose death lies in its preventability.
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