Officials in Virginia are making a drug overdose antidote available throughout the state to anyone without a prescription in light of the opioid and heroin epidemic.
The overdose antidote drug naloxone, also called Narcan, is now legally available without a prescription in an effort to combat rising overdose rates in the state. Virginia Health Commissioner Marissa Levine declared opioid overdoses in the state a public health emergency Monday and issued the standing order to allow anyone to obtain naloxone. Overdoes from heroin or prescription opioids are rapidly increasing in Virginia, with 801 overdoses confirmed in 2015, reports ABC13.
Roughly three Virginians die of a drug overdose every day and emergency room treatments for overdoses are increasing. (RELATED: More Americans Use Prescription Painkillers Than Tobacco)
“It just became clear that there were continued gaps, as well as the increase in deaths, so we really needed to do something,” Levine said in a statement Monday.
Naloxone previously was available in certain pharmacies across the state but the directive Monday makes it available in pharmacies everywhere. The move comes as state health officials discovered carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer, cut up into heroin being sold in the state. Carfentanil is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and has been discovered in at least two cases by Virginia authorities, reports NBC Washington.
“Too many families across Virginia and the nation are dealing with heartbreak and loss as a result of prescription opioid and heroin abuse epidemic,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Monday. “We cannot stand by while these drugs harm our communities and our economy.”
Use of prescription painkillers is now more widespread in the U.S. than using tobacco, a stark representation of the opioid epidemic plaguing states across the country. Nationally, 37.8 percent of adult Americans are using some kind of painkiller, while 31.1 percent of adults in the U.S. use tobacco products.
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