To get the life-saving drug naloxone to people at risk of overdose from prescription painkillers, states adopt decade-old tactics pioneered in heroin users in New Mexico.
During the past decade, unintentional poisonings in the USA have skyrocketed and are now the country's leading cause of injury death, killing more people than gunfire or car accidents. In most cases, opioid drug overdose induces unconsciousness and respiratory depression and ends in cardiac arrest, a process that may occur over a period of minutes or even hours. In contrast to other injury deaths, this provides a window of opportunity to intervene, and the drug naloxone provides a means for doing so.
The challenge is ensuring naloxone is available and given to overdose victims who urgently need it. Some of the most successful tactics for doing so were pioneered during the past two decades in people who use heroin, and New Mexico was at the forefront.
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