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LECOM pharmacy professor Kim Burns, 47, shows a Narcan naloxone nasal spray dose at a giveaway event at Blasco Memorial Library.

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Until recently, some opioid users and their friends and family had to overcome various barriers to obtain naloxone. Now anyone in Washington state who needs naloxone can get it at a pharmacy.

The new Statewide Standing Order for Naloxone can be used by anyone who is at risk of an opioid overdose. Friends and family who are around anyone who uses opioids can also use the Statewide Standing Order. Most health insurance plans, including Apple Health insurance (Medicaid), cover part or all of the cost of naloxone.

Opioids are medications to reduce pain. They can stop a person’s breathing if they are taken in high doses. A person who is overdosing on opioids just appears to quietly go to sleep. There are usually no sounds or movement to draw the attention of others.

Examples of prescription opioids include Oxycontin, Vicodin, Norco, Percocet, and Dilaudid. The street drugs heroin and fentanyl are also powerful opioids.

People using opioids are at higher risk of overdose if they take opioids along with other drugs, including alcohol. Another risk factor is a recent break in opioid use, such as a recent stay at a drug rehab facility or recent time in jail. Persons who have experienced a previous overdose are also at higher risk.

Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is a medication that can save lives by reversing the effects of an opioid overdose. People who take opioids should carry naloxone. Family and friends who are around anyone who takes opioids should also carry naloxone.

The Statewide Standing Order for Naloxone can be accessed on the Department of Health website: https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/DrugUserHealth/OverdoseandNaloxone.

The website also lists nearby locations which will dispense naloxone using the Statewide Standing Order. Click on the link to find naloxone near you. As of Sept. 5, the link lists Rite Aid Pharmacy in Ellensburg and Safeway Pharmacies in Ellensburg and Cle Elum as the participating pharmacies in Kittitas County.

Naloxone is also available at the Never Share Syringe Exchange. The Exchange is open on Thursdays between 12:30-3 p.m. at the United Methodist Church at the corner of Third Avenue and Ruby Street in Ellensburg.

Naloxone can be administered as a nasal spray. It is also available as an injection into the muscle of the upper arm or upper leg. You can learn the simple steps to using naloxone on the website listed above. Click on the link to Naloxone Instructions (PDF) or the Naloxone Instructions webpage. The participating pharmacies and the Kittitas County Public Health Department staff at the Never Share Syringe Exchange will also guide you through the simple steps to using naloxone.

Washington state has a general Good Samaritan law (RCW 4.24.300) which protects any volunteer who provides emergency care in good faith from being sued. Washington also has a “911 Good Samaritan law” (RCW 69.50.315) that protects anyone seeking medical help for an overdose victim from being prosecuted if a controlled substance is discovered while help is being provided. There is a very good 8 minute video on opioid overdose at http://stopoverdose.org/section/take-the-online-training. This is the first video on this webpage. The other videos on the webpage are also worth watching.

In 2017, more than 740 Washington residents died from an opioid overdose. Almost half of these deaths were from prescription opioids. Many of these deaths might have been prevented if naloxone had been within reach of the opioid user or the persons who were nearby. If you take opioids, or are around someone who does, please consider using the Statewide Standing Order to get naloxone to carry with you. You may end up saving the life of someone you care about.

Tim Roth is a Public Health Nurse at the Kittitas County Public Health Department.

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