Opioid Overdoses and Naloxone
What are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and some prescription pain relievers. When talking about prescription medications that are used to treat pain, opioids include
- oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet)
- hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Norco)
- hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken as prescribed by a doctor for the prescribed time period. But, often these medications are misused. Misuse can include the medication being taken in different ways than intended, being taken in larger quantities than prescribed, or being taken without a doctor’s prescription.
When misused opioid medications can lead to addiction, overdose, or even death. An overdose is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY! If you suspect someone has overdosed call 9-1-1 immediately.
Opioid Overdoses Caused by Fentanyl
Montana has seen a rise in the number of opioid overdoses reported due to prescribed fentanyl and non-prescribed (illegal) fentanyl abuse. Fentanyl is a synthetic and short-acting opioid that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. It was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients. Due to its powerful properties, fentanyl is often abused. When illegally manufactured, fentanyl is often mixed with heroin and/or methamphetamine. This mixing of drugs happens with or without the user’s knowledge.
Overdoses from fentanyl can be reversed with Naloxone. If Naloxone is given to a person who is not experiencing an opioid overdose, it is harmless. If someone is experiencing the signs of overdose, but you are unsure if they are suffering from an opioid overdose it is recommended to administer Naloxone.
Often times, higher doses or multiple doses of Naloxone are needed due to the high potency of illegal fentanyl. Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl may require continuous dosing of Naloxone due to the delayed toxicity.
Montana’s Good Samaritan Law provides legal protection to those who in good faith render emergency care or assistance at the scene of an emergency or accident without compensation. This law therefore offers protection to those who administer Naloxone to potential opioid overdose victims as long as it is done in good faith.
Emergency medical care is needed after an overdose event, even if Naloxone is given, to determine if further treatment is necessary.
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. Having Naloxone available to administer in the case of an opioid overdose can save a life.
Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing.
If Naloxone is given to a person who is not experiencing an opioid overdose, it is harmless. If someone is experiencing signs of an overdose but you are unsure if they are suffering from an opioid overdose, it is recommended to administer Naloxone.
Montana’s Standing Order
The Montana Legislature passed the 2017 Help Save Lives from Overdose Act, authorizing increased access to Naloxone. The standing order authorizes pharmacists who maintain a current active license practicing in a pharmacy located in Montana to initiate a prescription and dispense a naloxone opioid antagonist formulation listed in this standing order to an eligible recipient.