Tokyo-based Sankyo, one of the world’s largest global pharmaceutical companies, developed the drug Naloxone in the 1960s. The drug was created as an opioid receptor antagonist for the purposes of identifying opioid use and preventing respiratory complications from overdose. Naloxone has been identified by the World Health Organisation as one of the fundamental drugs that every basic health system should have access to.

Until recently, Naloxone has been available only by medical facilities providing care to opioid addicts. Now, the US FDA has approved its use among individuals by way of a slightly different product known as Naloxone Hydrochloride. Family members of opioid addicts can purchase an emergency dose of the drug, along with an applicator, to counteract the effects of overdose involving heroin and other opioids.

The FDA approval comes after several years of testing in the US. For example, police officers patrolling New York City’s mass transit system began carrying individual doses of the drug in 2012. They were trained in how to administer in the event they should encounter someone suffering from opioid overdose. Similar programmes in other cities have been set up around the country, mostly with positive results.

How It Works

When people overdose on heroin or other opioids, the drugs bind themselves to opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors are largely responsible for critical body system functions including heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. Addicts can die from overdose because they just stop breathing.

Addicts given an emergency dose of Naloxone Hydrochloride are less likely to experience critical breathing problems thanks to the drug’s interaction with opioids. Naloxone Hydrochloride is an opioid antagonist, meaning it does two things:

  • it helps to separate currently bonded opioids and receptors
  • it prevents new bonds from being formed. 

The drug’s properties as an opioid antagonist indicate that it works very rapidly, making it a very good option for restoring normal breathing in overdosing addicts. Having said that, the drug is also being used in some places to help break opioid addiction.

Addiction Treatment

Naloxone Hydrochloride can be added to other drugs to create medications for use in detox. Two examples of such medications include Suboxone and Subutex. Using Naloxone Hydrochloride in this way helps to alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with opiate detox while also reducing cravings.

One of the primary benefits of using this drug for addiction treatment is the fact that it has no addictive properties like some of the other drugs used in detox. It seems to be a drug that can easily counteract the effects of heroin and other opioids without worries of secondary addiction. However, the drug is not completely without side effects.

Naloxone Hydrochloride is associated with the following in some people:

  • mood swings
  • restlessness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • increased sweating
  • allergic reactions. 

All of the side effects, with the exception of allergic reactions, are usually minor. If an allergic reaction is present however, medical attention is immediately necessary. An allergic reaction to any medication can be dangerous.

Home Use in the UK

Naloxone Hydrochloride is still currently available in the UK only by prescription and only when administered by medical professionals. If things go well in the States, it seems only a matter of time before it will be available to police officers, emergency personnel, and even individual family members living with an addict.

Only use of the drug would likely include a medical device used to administer it, along with the proper training required to not only use the device, but also to be able to identify when it is necessary. As the US FDA has discovered, Naloxone Hydrochloride can be very effective in preventing overdose deaths with the minimum amount of training.

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