In April 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new hand-held auto-injector to reverse a potentially fatal opioid overdose. This devicecalled Evzio (naloxone hydrochloride injection)is designed for use by family members, caregivers, and non-medical first responders in cases of known or suspected overdose of heroin or a narcotic pain reliever (e.g., Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percocet). Narcan nasal spray (naloxone in nasal spray form) is an easy-to-use treatment approved by the FDA in November 2015.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), naloxone is available by prescription to friends and family members of people at increased risk for opioid overdosethose who are taking narcotic pain medications for a medical condition and those who are struggling with narcotic addiction.
The easy-to-use device can be carried in a pocket, purse, or bag, or can be stored in a medicine cabinet at home. Once it is turned on, it gives verbal instructions for use and then directs the person administering the medication to call 9-1-1. A training device is included with the delivery device and family members and caregivers are instructed to become familiar with using the device before it is needed.
Signs of narcotic overdose include decreased breathing/heart rate and loss of consciousness. Evzio delivers a single dose of naloxone into the muscle (intramuscular) or beneath the skin (subcutaneous) as an emergency treatment. Because the effects of narcotics can last longer than the effects of naloxone, and because naloxone can cause severe opioid withdrawal, it’s important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
Potential side effects of naloxone include the following:
- Cardiac arrest
- High blood pressure spikes
- Increased heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Profuse sweating
- Uncontrolled trembling/shaking
In addition to making prescription Evzio available to local law enforcement agencies and lay people concerned about drug overdose, the following steps may help reduce prescription drug abuse in the United States:
- Improve the ability of physicians and pharmacists to detect drug problems and identify patients who "doctor-shop" in an attempt to obtain prescription pain relievers and other controlled substances from multiple health care providers or pharmacies without the prescriber's or pharmacy's knowledge of the other prescriptions.
- Develop additional effective non-opioid pain relievers.
- Re-classify prescription pain relievers that contain hydrocodone from Schedule III to Schedule II (indicating a higher risk for abuse).
Sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); U.S. Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH)