Opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone has been made available to purchase over the counter without the need for a prescription in the USA.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug for over-the-counter purchase on Wednesday, with the most widely known form of naloxone being Narcan – a nasal spray made by Emergent BioSolutions in Maryland.
It comes amid rising concern in the country of the presence of fentanyl – a powerful synthetic opioid – in drugs that are sold as less powerful substances such as MDMA and cocaine, and its potentially deadly effects. Overdose deaths in the USA rose to 106,000 in 2021 – more than double the number in 2015 (52,404).
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Speaking to CNN, Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen commented on the risks associated with fentanyl. She said: “Because fentanyl is such a potent opioid, taking even a small amount can be deadly.
“Another element that makes fentanyl so dangerous is that many people may not be aware that they are taking the powerful drug,” she continued. “It’s very cheap to make, so some drug dealers are mixing fentanyl with other illicit substances, such as heroin, benzodiasepines, cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamines.”
“Fentanyl can also be made into pill form, and it can be mixed in with other counterfeit pills.”
Advocates believe that greater accessibility of nalaxone, particularly if it is in the hands of people and relatives who are often close to drug users, can help reduce overdose deaths and save lives.
Speaking to The Guardian, Jose Benitez, lead executive officer at Prevention Point Philadelphia, an organisation that aims to reduce the risks and harms for drug users said: “Putting it out on the shelbes is going to allow people just to pick it up, not have stigma attached to it and readily access this life-saving drug.”
Isaac Muk is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter