DENVER (AP) — Access to a powerful drug that can stop drug overdoses could be expanded in Colorado.
The state Senate begins work Thursday on a bill to expand access to so-called "opioid antagonists," injected or inhaled drugs that can stop an opiate overdose by "freezing" the brain's receptors for opiates such as heroin or OxyContin. The drugs temporarily restore normal breathing so that overdosing addicts can be taken to a hospital. The drugs are commonly sold under the generic name naloxone.
Naloxone counteracts the effects of heroin, OxyContin and other powerful painkillers and has been routinely used by ambulance crews and emergency rooms in the U.S. for decades.
An opiate antagonist is similar to the drug famously depicted in the movie "Pulp Fiction," when a character injected a drug into the chest of an overdosing character. Naloxone counteracts the effects of heroin, OxyContin and other powerful painkillers and has been routinely used by ambulance crews and emergency rooms in the U.S. for decades.
Drug-treatment workers say Colorado should clarify in state law that non-physicians who see an overdosing addict can use naloxone without breaking the law.
"It's a life-saver," said Lisa Raville, director of Denver's Harm Reduction Action Center, a needle-exchange agency that helps addicts.
Naloxone works by blocking certain drug receptors in the brain. It has no effect on alcohol or cocaine overdoses but can be used against such painkillers as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin.
Raville said that naloxone is routinely prescribed to addicts who wouldn't be able to use it to save their own lives. She pointed that naloxone is different from the drug depicted in "Pulp Fiction" — and should be injected into the legs or arms and not the chest — but that the movie makes one point clearly. That is that an overdosing drug-user isn't likely in any shape to administer naloxone on their own.