California order makes opioid overdose-reversing drug available without prescription
Last week the California Department of Public Health issued a statewide standing order for naloxone, the opioid overdose-reversing antidote.
Under the order, which serves as a standing prescription and was issued by agency Director Dr. Karen Smith, naloxone will no longer require a doctor’s prescription. The order enables organizations and facilities like residential treatment centers, sober living homes and needle exchange programs, as well as schools and members of law enforcement, to distribute naloxone. Under the order, Dr. Smith will serve as the prescribing physician for naloxone.
National Opioid Epidemic
With the country in the throes of an opioid epidemic, public health officials have been pushing to make the lifesaving medication, administered via injection or nasal mist, more widely available. Although state legislation authorized pharmacists to offer naloxone without a prescription in 2015, not all pharmacies have it in stock.
The order is likely to benefit rural parts of Northern California most, where a shortage of physicians makes it difficult for treatment centers and other organizations to find a doctor to write a standing order for naloxone. Still, doctors who can write a prescription are often hesitant to do so for a patient they haven’t met, not to mention addiction medicine isn’t a common specialty among doctors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there were 42,249 opioid-involved deaths in 2016, which include prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl. In California, fatal opioid overdoses were down 7% in 2016, the lowest number of opioid overdose deaths the state has seen since 2011.
However, the number of people dying from fentanyl overdoses has spiked sharply: 746 Californians died from fentanyl overdose in 2017, compared to 237 in 2016 and 81 in 2013. The rise of fentanyl is posing some serious concerns, as it’s often mixed with heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, increasing the risk of accidental overdose.
Life-Changing Addiction Treatment
Naloxone saves lives, but it’s not a solution to the opioid epidemic. Its widespread availability will likely make a difference in reducing the number of overdose-related deaths, but it does nothing to combat the opioid epidemic in the long-term. The order offers a quick fix, but if lawmakers and public health officials really want to develop a viable solution, they’ll need to invest in a more comprehensive treatment system that prevents overdose in the first place by connecting people with life-changing addiction treatment.
New Found Life has offered effective, evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment services in the Long Beach, CA, community for 25 years. We view chemical dependency as a treatable disease, and stand behind our addiction recovery services. For more information about how our programs can help you or someone you love achieve lasting recovery, contact us at 800-635-9899.