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TN Has New Tool to Fight Opioid Overdose

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Tennessee friends and family members of opioid addicts now will have greater access to Naloxone, known to be able to reverse the fatal effects of an overdose. (Governor Tom Wolf/flickr.com)
Tennessee friends and family members of opioid addicts now will have greater access to Naloxone, known to be able to reverse the fatal effects of an overdose. (Governor Tom Wolf/flickr.com)
September 15, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- More than 1,200 Tennesseans died from opioid overdose in 2014 - the most recent year with data available. But the availability of a new drug on the market means that many of those deaths could be prevented in the future.

Naloxone - also known as Narcan - counters the life-threatening effects of an overdose almost immediately, and this month pharmacies in the state will be able to dispense the drug to friends and family members of addicts, in hopes of saving a life. Chief medical officer for the Tennessee Department of Health, Dr. David Reagan, explained.

"If I am passed out because of a drug overdose, I do not have the ability to administer naloxone to myself,” Reagan said. “And so in this particular circumstance, it's really important for people in the vicinity to have ready access to this life-saving rescue drug."

Currently naloxone is most often kept in hospital emergency rooms and with first responders. With the passage of the new regulation, pharmacists can receive training and enter into an agreement with the state to provide the drug.

Drug overdose is one of the leading causes of death in Tennessee. Critics worry that the drug will give users a safety net, allowing them to take more risks as they seek higher highs.

But Reagan said it's important to remember that while some people may have initially taken opioids by choice, it quickly becomes a medical issue.

"People really need to understand that while in the past there's been a lot of stigma associated with a substance-use disorder, that really is not the case in this day and time,” Reagan explained. "We understand that there's a biological basis for this. It may have started out with choice, but it does not end up with choice."


Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN