Heroin Overdose

Michele Skalicky

Opioids, both prescription and illicit, are the main driver of drug overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   More than 33,000 people died in the United States in 2015 from opioid overdoses, the latest year for which numbers are available. 

Greene County had 97 overdose deaths in 2015, and, of those, 61 were opioid-related.

Punching Judy / Flickr

A non-addictive opioid antagonist becomes available Aug. 28 for Missouri residents to block the effects of an overdose. Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, can be administered either nasally or by injection and works by blocking opioid receptors in the spine.

On June 21, Gov. Nixon signed House Bill 1568 to expand access to naloxone hydrochloride by allowing pharmacists to administer the drug under a physician’s protocol or by prescription. This will now allow someone to be prescribed the drug by request, the same way someone can obtain a vaccine.

A House bill that would have allowed anyone to possess and administer naloxone, a drug that reverses opiate overdoses was one of the victims of the Senate stalemate at the end of the 2015 Legislative session.

Last July, Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill that allows law enforcement to carry naloxone in their vehicles and administer the drug at the scene of an overdose. This is much like what paramedics have done throughout the state for many years.

But some legislators, advocates and law enforcement believe that putting Narcan in the hands of friends and family of addicts would be more effective at saving lives.