Increased Use of Anti-Overdose Drug May Give Addicts False Sense of Security, Says Reza Ghorbani, MD, APIPP, FIPP

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Many treatment professionals now support making the anti-overdose drug Narcan available without a prescription. This approach is counter-productive, says Reza Ghorbani, MD, APIPP, FIPP.

Right now we’re in the midst of an epidemic of addiction to prescription painkillers, a much bigger problem than illegal narcotics. However attractive Narcan is a band-aide approach.

From first responders in small towns like La Crosse, Wisconsin, to big city drug prevention programs in Chicago (, many treatment professionals now support making the anti-overdose drug Narcan available without a prescription. The even posted an announcement on August 23, 2013 about the "Opioid Overdose Toolkit", which openly promotes the widespread use of naloxone. The proponents of widespread naloxone use say it’s a useful tool in preventing a fatal overdose when medical help is not available.

Time Magazine's website quotes Nora Volkow, PhD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, saying Narcan, also called naloxone, should be more widely available as an antidote to narcotics because it will “save lives.”

However, well meaning, these efforts may actually enable drug use while diverting attention from much needed prevention programs, says Reza Ghorbani, MD, president and medical director of the Advanced Pain Medicine Institute of Greater Washington, DC.

“If Narcan gives individuals a false sense of security they may feel it’s okay to push their habit to the edge,” says Dr. Ghorbani.

CNN’s National Medical Correspondent Sanja Gupta is the latest to raise controversial approach aired a dramatic investigation, titled "Coming Back from the Dead",, on November 2, 2013, showing how Narcan revived a 29-year old heroin addict. The woman was barely breathing, but Narcan reversed her symptoms by blocking heroin’s ability to slow down the nervous system.

“While we are all relieved that a tragedy was averted in this case, aren’t we headed down a slippery slope when we give addicts a medication that appears to make their drug use safer? What if they’re unable to use Narcan when they overdose and there’s no one else around to help,” asks Dr. Ghorbani.

According the US Centers for Disease Control, more people die of overdose in the US (37,485 in 2009) than in car accidents. However, most of those are related to legal drugs and alcohol. It’s not clear how much additional use of Narcan would diminish that toll since it’s currently available only from medical professionals.

On November 7th, 2013, the website of the State of Ohio announced that the administration of naloxone as a treatment for an overdose would be examined and expanded. Ohio currently has a community-based naloxone education and distribution program and plans to expand the pilot-project soon. (site link here)

“This isn’t good public policy. Right now we’re in the midst of a prescription painkiller epidemic--a much bigger problem than illegal narcotics that requires immediate action. However attractive Narcan is only a band-aide approach,” Dr. Ghorbani says.

Doctors and patients should consider other options to prescription drugs such as safe and effective natural pain remedies as Dr. Ghorbani explains in his new book, “Secrets to a Pain Free Life”, available on Amazon.

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Reza Ghorbani
since: 10/2013
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