California Expands Opioid Overdose Antidote Access

California State Capitol

On Thursday, June 14, California’s top health official issued an order which will make the opioid overdose antidote naloxone available to anyone in the state without a prescription.

Naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication, can save the life of someone who is overdosing on opioids. Available as an injection or nasal spray, the medication reverses the effects of opioid overdose. It is not yet clear whether or not the cost of the medication will be covered by insurance providers in the state.

The standing order for naloxone was issued by the Director of the California Public Health Department, Dr. Karen Smith. The order also allows community organizations fighting the opioid epidemic, including needle exchange programs, to distribute the medication to those most at risk of overdosing on opioids.

By issuing this standing order, California has become the 41st state to make naloxone available without a prescription. When combined with adequate access to substance abuse recovery treatment programs, naloxone can prove to be an invaluable tool in the battle against the opioid epidemic.

According to statistics released by the California Public Health Department, preliminary death data reveals that 1,882 people died of opioid overdose in the state in 2017.

The opioid crisis continues to take a toll across the country, with data from the United States Centers for Disease Control showing that two-thirds of overdose deaths which occurred in the country during 2016 involved either prescription or illicit opioids. In addition, that data shows that the number of opioid overdose deaths doubled between 2010 and 2016, rising from 21,000 in 2010 to more than 42,000 in 2016.

Recently, the United States Surgeon General urged all Americans to carry the potentially life-saving medication. By combining naloxone with adequate addiction recovery treatment, those who face an opioid overdose may have a chance to make their way to lasting recovery.