Why We Need to Streamline Overdose Reversal Medication for Synthetic Opioids

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There are life-saving medications called opioid antagonists that can be administered when a client experiences an opioid overdose. This medication can reverse an overdose of heroin, synthetic opioids, and other prescription opioid medications. They can be administered via injectable or by prefilled nasal spray.

In 2017, over 47,000 people lost their lives over an overdose of opioids, including synthetic opioids, heroin, and prescription pain relievers [1]. With the right steps to streamline the opioid overdose reversal medication, paramedics will be more easily able to save the lives of those experiencing an opioid overdose.

There are many significant reasons why it’s imperative to streamline overdose reversal medication for synthetic opioids:

The Usefulness of Opioid Antagonists for Overdose Reversal

The drugs work by attaching to opioid receptors to successfully reverse and block the effects experienced during the overdose.

Benefits of Streamlining Opioid Antagonists

When given in time, opioid antagonists can provide more time for intervention by emergency responders.

Lower Cost of Opioid Overdose Treatment

The overall cost of opioid addiction and overdose treatment is significant. However, the cost also varies based on various factors like state laws. According to a journal on Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the economic cost of the U.S. opioid epidemic was a little over $1 billion [2].

In managing the cost of opioid addiction and overdose, mental health experts can either manage the risks or streamline overdose reversal medication. To manage the risk of opioid overdose to lower the cost of treatment, it’s imperative to follow crucial strategies like:

  • Prevention & Education: Encourage mental health providers, people at risk for overdose, and family members to learn how to manage or prevent opioid overdose. Overdose prevention centers can provide resources that can help educate.
  • Encourage the public to call 911: Any individual experiencing opioid overdose requires immediate medical attention to avoid complications. Hence, members of the public should be encouraged to call 911.
  • Encourage Prescribers to Use State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs): State PDNPs help address the wrong use of prescription opioids, which helps reduce the possibility of opioid overdose or death.

Lowering the cost of opioid overdose treatment may also require mental health clinics to improve engagement, ongoing monitoring, and adopt smart prescribing.

Managing the risk of opioid overdose to control the cost of opioid overdose treatment is significantly effective. Mental health clinics need to ensure law enforcement and those receiving the medication are doing so based on appropriate risk management guidelines. A sample guideline is one by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [3].

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Easy Accessibility to Naloxone

When naloxone gets administered early, there’s a higher chance of preventing opioid overdose-related deaths. For this reason, it’s imperative to improve the accessibility to naloxone. The FDA approved naloxone auto-injector and intranasal naloxone products in situations of an overdose. However, before 2012, only six U.S. states had laws that expanded access to naloxone.

In mid-2017, most states and the District of Columbia enacted statutes providing criminal liability protections to first responders administering naloxone. Thirty-seven states also have statutes offering criminal liability protections for naloxone prescription and distribution.

One of the suitable ways to improve accessibility to naloxone is through pharmacy distribution. By law, nine states in the United States give pharmacists direct authority for naloxone prescription and sales.

After passing those laws, overdose deaths fell by 34 percent. There needs to be increased adoption of those laws in other states to improve naloxone accessibility.

Given the non-addictive and safe nature of naloxone, policymakers and advocates call for it to be sold over the counter. Greater sales of naloxone as an OTC medication should increase the chances of opioid overdose reversal.

Another method of improving the accessibility of naloxone is co-prescribing the drug to patients with opioid prescriptions at risk of opioid overdose. Examples of these patients include those with concurrent benzodiazepine use, a history of overdose, and a history of higher opioid dosages [4].

Save Time for Mental Health Practice Management

Streamlining overdose reversal medication for synthetic opioids can also help save time for mental health professionals. Generally, an effective process of streamlining medication management can save up to 2 hours daily or 10 hours every week.

With the additional time streamlining offers, professionals can have more time with the patients. This extra time can also encourage mental health professionals to manage medication non-adherence.

Since achieving optimal medication-taking behavior is collaborative, having more time to speak with patients is imperative. Streamlining overdose reversal medication saves time for patients, physicians, mental health experts, and even medical assistants.

Reduces the Growing Opioid Crisis

Streamlining naloxone as an overdose reversal medication for synthetic opioids is one of the top strategies for addressing the opioid epidemic.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, naloxone distribution effectively reduces the growing opioid crisis. In 2018, a U.S. Surgeon General referred to naloxone as a “safe antidote” for those at risk of opioid overdose.

Between 1999 to 2020, over 564,000 people lost their lives due to an opioid overdose. The growing opioid crisis can be categorized into three specific waves [5]:

  1. The first opioid overdose death wave involved increased opioid prescription in the 1990s. This wave involved natural, semi-synthetic opioids and methadone.
  2. The second wave of overdose started in 2010. However, this wave was primarily heroin
  3. The third major wave started in 2013, and there was a significant increase in overdose deaths involving opioids, especially those that involved synthetic opioids.

In combatting the growing opioid epidemic, it’s crucial to prioritize streamlining overdose reversal medication.

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Procentive is a full-featured, simple EHR solution for behavioral health practice. As mental health experts, you can get all you need to power your practice in one place. Procentive also provides an easy-to-use interface and constant web-based access. The EHR solution also encourages paperless records, easy scheduling with alerts, and comprehensive reporting.

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  1. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871620305159?via%3Dihub
  3. https://www.unodc.org/documents/scientific/STNAR55_Ebook.pdf
  4. https://ldi.upenn.edu/our-work/research-updates/expanding-access-to-naloxone-a-review-of-distribution-strategies/
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/basics/epidemic.html


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