Americans are already used to seeing life-saving defibrillators designed to stabilize patients undergoing severe cardiac problems posted in locations ranging from airports to schools. But soon a device designed to automatically reverse the effects of opiate overdoses could be coming to hotels and nightclubs near you.
This week the Food and Drug Administration approved Evzio, an auto-injector that works like a common EpiPen to fight the effects of deadly drug overdoses. It's user-friendly and designed so that the average layman can administer an injection of life-saving opiate antidote naloxone without the assistance of a doctor. When the kit is opened, voice instructions narrate every step of the process to the user, even counting down from five before the intramuscular injection. It even has a training device.
Opioids include everything from completely illegal narcotics like heroin to legal but commonly abused painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet. According to the Associated Press, opioid overdoses kill 16,000 people a year in the United States, and drug overdoses of all varieties now kill more than car crashes. FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg specified that the increase in fatalities has largely been due to prescription overdoses rather than abuse, signifying a need for widely available fast-acting emergency treatment. Additionally, the creators hope that addicts, as well as their friends or family, will carry the device in case of an overdose, thus making quick treatment for overdoses a reality.
Writes PolicyMic's Nina Ippolito:
"Narcan, also known as naloxone, is a non-addictive drug known as an opioid antagonist. It works by binding to and blocking opiate receptors, which temporarily reverses the effects of heroin and similar depressants, and gives individuals the opportunity to get to an emergency room for further treatment.
... When paired with rescue breathing, Narcan can, within minutes, bring someone who's turning blue or who has stopped breathing back to life. The drug's effects can be seen in the CNN video below."
"While the larger goal is to reduce the need for products like these by preventing opioid addiction and abuse, they are extremely important innovations that will help to save lives," Hamburg said.
In a pilot program carried out by Quincy, Mass. police, officers carrying naloxone nasal spray from 2010 onwards said in July 2013 that they had been able to use the kits to reverse 170 overdoses from a total of 179 incidents where the spray was used, a 95% success rate.