Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The opioid epidemic: Fast facts about naloxone, costs

The health care and workplace costs are in the billions.

Opioids are now the most commonly abused drug in the country, and they are responsible for an estimated $55.7 billion in health care, workplace, and criminal justice costs a year.

This is according to a new report, Optimizing the Abuse-Deterrent Opioids Market, released in January by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which estimated that 15.7 million people aged 12 or older have used prescription drugs non-medically in the past year.

Communities in the midstate are no exception, and there are more industries partnering to battle the opioid epidemic from health care and law enforcement to the private business sector.

Pennsylvania is the third highest state in the nation for heroin deaths, and it ranks ninth in the nation for drug overdoses, according to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey who is currently pushing for more emergency funding towards the epidemic.

Due to so many deaths, there has been a push for naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

In a little more than a year, more than 600 opioid overdoses were reversed through the use of naloxone by state law enforcement, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

Yet, confusion as to what exactly naloxone does, who has access to it and who’s paying for it is common.

Here are some fast facts to know about naloxone:

What is it?

Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

What type of overdose can naloxone reverse?

The medication is for any kind of opioid overdose, not just heroin. People can also overdose on opioids by consuming too many prescription pain pills.

How does naloxone work?

Naloxone can be administered through injection or in a nasal spray form, and it blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores the victim’s breathing within two to eight minutes, according to a news release.

Its only function is to reverse the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system in order to prevent death.

“Naloxone has no potential for abuse,” said Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania physician general. “A person can’t get high or become addicted to it, and it is safe to use.”

Who has access to naloxone?

Since last fall, Pennsylvania residents can access naloxone from the pharmacy without a prescription from their health care provider. This is due to a standing order signed by Levine.

Prior to that, Levine had signed a standing order prescription for naloxone for law enforcement officers and firefighters in April 2015.

Naloxone was first made available to law enforcement and first responders in November 2014 through a state Act, which also provides immunity from prosecution to people administering the medication as well as those who seek help when someone overdoses.

“Often times, it’s a family member or friend who is first to find the overdose victim, and minutes can be the difference between life and death,” Levine said. “I encourage anyone who is suffering with an opioid addiction or is regularly taking prescription opioids for pain, as well as their families, to have naloxone in their homes.”

Where does funding for Naloxone come from?

A naloxone kit, which includes two doses, costs about $100. The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs has raised more than $600,000 from health insurers across Pennsylvania to provide naloxone to police at no cost to the police departments.

In the midstate, Harrisburg-based Capital BlueCross recently donated $100,000 for naloxone to law enforcement agencies serving the insurer’s 21-county service area.

Individuals seeking naloxone from the pharmacy may be covered through their provider.

This week, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs recognized more than 300 municipal police departments for their use of naloxone in preventing more than 600 opioid overdoses, according to a news release.

Police are first on the scene of an overdose an estimated 70 percent of the time, according to a Center for Rural Pennsylvania survey of police departments.

Lenay Ruhl

Business Events

The future of higher education

Wednesday, September 28, 2022
The future of higher education

Forty Under 40

Wednesday, October 19, 2022
Forty Under 40

Leaders in Construction and Real Estate

Thursday, October 27, 2022
Leaders in Construction and Real Estate

The Future of Green Construction & Real Estate

Wednesday, November 30, 2022
The Future of Green Construction & Real Estate