Opioid Overdose Prevention

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Understanding what puts a person at risk and how to prevent an overdose could save a life.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in deaths resulting from heroin and prescription drug use. In fact, it has been reported that for people ages 25-64, drug overdose causes more deaths per year than motor vehicle accidents. Opioids – prescription and illicit – are the main driver of drug overdose deaths. Opioids were involved in 47,600 deaths in 2017, (67.8% of all drug overdose deaths).

In 2017, the states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose were West Virginia (57.8 per 100,000), Ohio (46.3 per 100,000), Pennsylvania (44.3 per 100,000), the District of Columbia (44.0 per 100,000), and Kentucky (37.2 per 100,000). (Center for Disease Control).

What are Opioids?

Opioids include illegal drugs such as heroin, as well as prescription medications used to treat pain such as morphine, codeine, methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percodan®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Lortab®, Norco®), fentanyl (Duragesic®, Fentora®), hydromorphone (Dilaudid®, Exalgo®), and buprenorphine (Subutex®, Suboxone®).

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an overdose that is caused by an opioid drug (i.e. prescription pain medication or heroin). When administered during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing within two to eight minutes. Naloxone has been used safely by emergency medical professionals for more than 40 years and has only one function: to reverse the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system in order to prevent death.

Good Samaritan Law/ACT 139 Could Help Save Lives

Act 139 allows first responders (law enforcement, firefighters, EMS) or other organizations acting at the direction of a health care professional authorized to prescribe naloxone, to administer the drug to individuals experiencing an opioid overdose. The law also provides immunity from prosecution for those responding to and reporting overdoses. Additionally, individuals such as friends or family members in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose may receive a prescription for naloxone.

Good Samaritan Provision

Through the ‘Good Samaritan’ provision of Act 139, friends and loved ones are encouraged to summon emergency medical services by calling 911 in the event they witness an overdose. The law is meant to quell the fear of arrest in calling authorities for an overdose event by offering certain criminal and civil protections for those that do. Law enforcement entities in other states that have implemented Good Samaritan protections for those who dial 911 in good faith have reported significant improvements in community relations.

*Information adapted from the PA Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs

More Information

For Physicians & Pharmacists

For Community Members and Family Members

DOWNLOAD Naloxone Fact Sheet
 SAMHSA Opioid Overdose_Toolkit

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