For the last decade, over­doses of opi­ates and sim­ilar drugs have advanced at an accel­er­ating pace, killing hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­cans. Improving access to the drug naloxone, which coun­ter­acts the effects of over­doses, is one of the only inter­ven­tions proven to save lives.

Pro­grams that have dis­trib­uted naloxone to drug users, their family mem­bers and friends, and others who are likely to wit­ness an over­dose have reversed at least 10,000 over­doses, according to the fed­eral Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, slashing over­dose rates in par­tic­i­pating com­mu­ni­ties. Just this past week, Eric Holder lauded the more recent — and also promising — efforts to equip police and fire­fighters with naloxone.

Why aren’t these pro­grams making a notice­able dent in the national over­dose crisis? They are still too few in number, reaching too few people. A major reason for this is that the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion clas­si­fies naloxone as a pre­scrip­tion drug. Tech­ni­cally, this means that resource-​​strapped pro­grams should employ med­ical pro­fes­sionals to write naloxone scripts — no easy feat, as our research found scarce willing providers. Before the drug can be pre­scribed, state reg­u­la­tions typ­i­cally require an in-​​person exam­i­na­tion of the poten­tial over­dose victim. Tough luck for a drug user’s mother trying to get a naloxone pre­scrip­tion to avert the worst-​​case sce­nario, and a reg­u­la­tory swamp for police depart­ments looking to equip their officers.

Read the article at The New York Times →