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Naloxone and Overdose Rescue Kits and Hangover Helpers

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Naloxone and Overdose Rescue Kits and Hangover Helpers

When I first saw the headline, “Overdose Rescue Kits”, I thought it was a joke, a takeoff on articles about hangover remedies. But it wasn’t a joke. (FYI, since that day, the “New York Times” has changed the headline to “Kits Using Naloxone Revive Addicts After Opiate Overdose”. They make those changes occasionally.) I knew about oral activated charcoal used for drug overdoses, but this was different.

Last October I posted about states passing legislation to help those who overdose by removing the fear of being arrested if someone calls 911 to get the person help. This article is about helping people in other countries who overdose on drugs like heroin and Oxycontin.

In Europe, someone dies from a drug overdose every hour, the article says. (I wonder what the figure is in this country.) With naloxone (or Narcan, the brand name), which blocks opiate receptors, the person may be revived. I don’t know if it’s possible in every case, but it’s been “shown to work” and “has been used for decades by surgeons and paramedics.” Naloxone is “a secondary chemical in the drug Suboxone”, according to Wikipedia.

The article mentioned there’s a question about how legal it is to distribute these kits the way other countries do it, but there are groups in Central Asia and in Europe hard at work. In China, if you call a hotline, someone on a motorcycle will deliver the kit to you. In Afghanistan, however, the person who gave you a heroin injection may also provide the Naloxone shot. L

Now the cost. Roughly between  25 cents and $2.00 in other countries, in contrast to about $6 or $9 in the U.S, depending on what article you read.

Be sure and check out the photo of the kit in the article. It looks very professional, like a first aid kit you might buy for your house. A nasal spray is available as well. I wonder why I never heard of these kits before.

In a 2009 article in Time magazine, addiction writer Maia Szalavitz wrote about programs in Chicago and North Carolina in this country.  I also found mention of the kits by a Canadian blogger. Here’s an article from the Harm Reduction Journal on a government site about a study of a program in New York City. The conclusions seemed pretty positive. Finally, NPR has had a story on the kits, too.

As the New York Times writer mentions, if someone is revived with this kit, it may send him or her back to rehab. On the other hand, Szalavitz notes a problem with these programs: could drug users also think that if this is something that can resuscitate them they can continue using drugs with impunity? Which, as we know, is playing Russian roulette with your life.

About hangover remedies…there’s news on that front as well. Just before New Year’s, several new products hit the news. Enterprising entrepreneurs have been busy.

One product, a patch, goes on an area like a forearm 45 minutes before drinking and should be worn for eight hours after the last drink. It contains B and other vitamins, Acai berry, and folic and pantothenic acid. But even the doctor that helped produce the patch said that nothing will help those who drink a lot, so doesn’t this appear senseless?

Another supposed remedy is a pill that is a blend of aspirin, an antacid, and caffeine, and yet another is a mix of vitamin B and C, magnesium and cysteine. It seems to me there are so many more productive things to be doing with one’s time, and so many better things to invent for mankind.

Update from Joan Borsten:

Fifteen minutes after we published Pat’s article, the phone rang.  A woman had already read it and wanted to know where to get a Naloxone kit.  She said she wanted to have one on hand in case her brother, a heroin addict, overdosed.   While researching this article, Pat had looked without luck for a manufacturer of these kits.  She tried again and discovered that kits require a prescription and the local pharmacy may or may not have a kit on hand, but there are apparently 200 naloxone distribution programs around the country.  There is a large program in New York directed by Sharon Stancliff with the Harm Reduction Coalition.  To find one in your area, type into your search engine and enter a zip code into the program locator.


Showing 2 comments
  • Eliza Wheeler

    Thank you for mentioning take-home naloxone programs. These programs are certainly not a joke, and they save thousands of lives a year in the US. Take-home naloxone programs have been distributing naloxone to drug users, their families, friends and loved ones for over 15 years. There are currently nearly 200 programs in the US that do this. Some are supported by state Departments of Public Health, like in Massachusetts, New Mexico and New York State. You mentioned that you were wondering about the statistics about overdose in the United States–there have been multiple recent publications by the CDC circulating through the news about the fact that in the US overdoses now outnumber motor vehicle accidents as the number one cause of accidental death. Here’s one of the articles:
    If you would like more information about naloxone programs and overdose prevention, there is a great blog, where you can find some information, discussion and research related to overdose, and at the bottom of the page, there is a program locator function to find the closest naloxone program to where you live.
    I understand that at first these programs may sound strange, but I assure you, they save lives, and empowering people to take care of each other changes lives. We are always available if you want more information.
    Eliza Wheeler
    Drug Overdose Prevention and Education Project Manager
    Harm Reduction Coalition

  • Russell Webster

    I curate an online magazine featuring a range of articles about Naloxone use all over the world.
    You and your readers might be interested:

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