U.S. Surgeon General Issues Public Health Advisory on Naloxone and Opioid Overdoses

Urges more individuals to carry life-saving medication

Increasing Naloxone Awareness and Use – The Role of Health Care Practitioners

For the first time in over a decade, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, has issued a public health advisory in response to the alarming escalation of opioid overdose deaths across the country. Despite evidence of the effectiveness of naloxone in reducing opioid overdose deaths, awareness of the drug’s benefits and its possession and use among patients, prescribers, community bystanders, and even first responders in some areas remains limited. To fill this gap and to leverage naloxone provided in the community to deal with the ongoing national opioid emergency, the April 5, 2018, Surgeon General’s Advisory on Naloxone and Opioid Overdose explains the importance of knowing how to use and keeping within reach this potentially life-saving medication.

Recognizing the established clinical benefits of naloxone, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit lists naloxone administration as among the 5 essential steps for first responders to individuals who have opioid overdoses. Furthermore, CDC recommends that health care practitioners consider offering naloxone to patients receiving high-dose prescription opioids for chronic pain or when other factors are present such as history of overdose, history of substance use disorder, and concurrent benzodiazepine use.

Be Prepared. Get Naloxone. Save a Life.

An important message for health care practitioners, including prescribers, substance use disorder treatment practitioners, and pharmacists, is to amplify this information. Together, clinicians must increase the awareness, possession, and use of naloxone among at-risk populations and broader communities. Specifically, clinicians are encouraged to:

  • Learn to identify factors that increase patient risk for opioid overdose;
  • Follow the CDC’s Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain;
  • Make use of prescription drug monitoring programs;
  • Find out whether their state permits pharmacists to prescribe naloxone or dispense it under a standing order (i.e., without a patient-specific prescription) or under a collaborative practice agreement;
  • Prescribe or dispense naloxone to individuals who are at an increased risk for opioid overdose and to their friends and family; and
  • Determine whether naloxone is covered by insurance or is available at low or no cost to their patients.

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