Naloxone may reverse deadly effects of drug overdoses


April Rovero lost her college-aged son Joey to a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs including opioid and Oxycontin.

While the former football player from San Ramon was alone at the time of his death, his mom believes under other circumstances his life could have been saved with the help of an injectable antidote.

"Had his roommate checked on him and found him in an overdosing state, using naloxone would have allowed him to recover from his situation," Rovero said.

Addiction specialist Gantt Galloway helps run the New Leaf treatment center in Contra Costa County.

The Lafayette-based center distributes naloxone kits and this month began training classes on how to perform the simple injection.

A new bill still in the legislature would increase the availability even further by allowing naloxone to be sold in pharmacies without a prescription.

Galloway says the antidote works by blocking the same receptors in the brain that opioids use.

"The kits are extremely effectives. More than 99-percent of those who are administered the medication survive the overdose," Galloway said.

But the need may be accelerating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that drug overdoses surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of injury death for people between the ages of 25 and 64.

A number of law enforcement agencies have already distributed noloxone kits to officers, but advocates like Rovero believe putting them in the hands of friends or family members of opiate users could prevent un-tolled deaths.

"Naloxone can save lives, we know that. And if the lay person, a mom, a dad, or a friend even of a person who is on long term opiates, who's at high risk for overdose, or otherwise have an addiction issue to opiates, if they have the drug on hand it can save their lives," Rovero said.

Last week, the FDA approved a version of naloxone delivered through a device similar to an EpiPen which is used by people suffering from allergic reactions.

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