Layperson Access to Naloxone in The Sunshine State: Giving Life. Inspiring Hope.
Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of injury death nationwide. Opioid overdose can occur, accidentally, from medical use of prescription opioid pain relievers, non-medical use of prescription opioids, and heroin use. In 2013, approximately 16,000 people in the United States died from overdoses involving prescription opioids. That same year over 1,900 Floridians died with at least one prescription drug listed as a cause of death, and the majority involved opioids. In addition, heroin deaths in Florida increased by nearly 80% from 2012 to 2013.
In response to our national opioid overdose problem, various national organizations (including the American Medical Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Association of Poison Control Centers) as well as federal government agencies (including the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration), have adopted policy positions supporting greater access to naloxone. In addition, just last month, the Florida Medical Association signed a letter addressed to the National Governors Association, urging an increased focus on overdose prevention, including enhancement of access to, and utilization of, naloxone. Also, last month, the Florida Board of Medicine issued a final order authorizing a Florida physician to prescribe naloxone to his patients at risk for administration by third parties to those patients.
Naloxone is the standard treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose. Naloxone is a prescription medication that was approved by the FDA in 1971. It is not a controlled substance and has no potential for abuse. The medication is virtually inert to patients without opioids in their systems. However, it temporarily blocks the effects of opioids in the event of an opioid overdose. Traditionally, it has been used in hospitals and by emergency medical services (EMS), but it can also be administered effectively by laypersons with some basic instructions. These basic instructions involve recognizing opioid overdose, calling 911, administering naloxone, performing rescue breathing, putting overdose victims on their sides in the rescue position, and caring for an overdose victim until EMS arrival.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since the first naloxone program began distributing naloxone to laypersons in 1996, over 50,000 individuals have been trained in naloxone use, primarily drug users and their friends and family, with over 10,000 overdose reversals reported between 1996 and 2010. In a recent study of the Massachusetts naloxone distribution program, communities with high implementation of overdose education and naloxone distribution had a nearly 50% lower opioid overdose mortality rate compared to communities that did not implement overdose education and naloxone distribution, over the course of the same time period and accounting for community differences. As of December 15, 2014, 27 states and the District of Columbia have amended laws to facilitate the prescribing and dispensing of naloxone and layperson administration.
However, naloxone is not often available when needed in Florida due to legal barriers to access. So what can we do in the Sunshine State to remove those barriers? By making some simple changes to Florida law, the answer is – a lot. During Florida’s 2015 legislative session, the Sunshine State has the opportunity to join this movement to save lives. Sen. Greg Evers (R-Pensacola) and Rep. Julio Gonzalez (R-Venice) have introduced Senate Bill 758/House Bill 751, Florida Opioid Overdose Prevention Act/Emergency Treatment & Recovery Act, bills which would expand access to naloxone in Florida.
As President & CEO of The Skeeterhawk Experiment, a nonprofit based in Northeast Florida, dedicated to reducing prescription drug misuse and related harms, our group is proud to be a member of “A Mother’s Act”, a growing, grassroots coalition of healthcare professionals, treatment providers, law enforcement, advocates, educators, family members, and friends, joining forces, to support increased access to naloxone in Florida.
A Mother’s Act calls on all Floridians to work together to increase opportunities for opioid overdose prevention education and access to naloxone by advocating for the following key principles:
- Third party prescription authorization for first responders (such as law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians), family members, friends and others who may be in a position to assist someone at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose;
- Access to all generic and proprietary naloxone delivery methods;
- Increased opportunities for opioid overdose prevention education via community organizations and substance abuse treatment centers; and
- Meaningful prescriber, pharmacist, and layperson administrator liability protections.
Naloxone, alone, is not the solution to our state’s opioid overdose problem, but it is an important tool which we are failing to utilize – for each time it’s prescribed, dispensed, or administered, we are presented with a critical opportunity to provide education, intervention, treatment, and the possibility of long-term recovery.
To add your name to “A Mother’s Act” Support Letter, email the following info to [email protected]: [Name][Title/Organization][City, State][If applicable, relationship to family member who passed away in connection with an opioid addiction].
You can also visit “A Mother’s Act” website to learn more: http://www.amomsact.org/
Help us give life, so that, together, we may inspire hope. Join us.
About the author: Kelly Corredor is the President & CEO of The Skeeterhawk Experiment, a 501(c)(3) organization based in the Jacksonville, FL area, dedicated to reducing prescription drug misuse and related harms through the testing of innovative prevention, treatment and overdose rescue strategies. Prior to co-founding The Skeeterhawk Experiment, Ms. Corredor was an attorney in the global real estate department of a leading international law firm. Ms. Corredor is now a stay-at-home mom while she works on addressing her community’s problem with prescription drug overdoses.
 CDC. Prescription Drug Overdose in the United States: Fact Sheet. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/overdose/facts.html. Accessed on December 4, 2014.
 FLDE. Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners, 2013 Annual Report.
 American Medical Association. AMA adopts new policies at annual meeting. 2012. Accessed October 17, 2014. Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/news/news/2012-06-19-ama-adopts-new-policies.page.
 American Society of Addiction Medicine. “Public Policy Statement on the Use of Naloxone for the Prevention of Drug Overdose Deaths. Accessed November 5, 2014. Available at: http://www.asam.org/advocacy/find-a-policy-statement/view-policy-statement/public-policy-statements/2014/08/28/use-of-naloxone-for-the-prevention-of-drug-overdose-deaths
 American Association of Poison Control Centers. American Association of Poison Control Centers Publishes Joint Position Statement on Expanding Access to Naloxone. Accessed November 5, 2014. Available at: http://www.aapcc.org/press/33/.
 ONDCP – Office of Public Affairs. Fact Sheet: Preventing, Treating and Surviving Overdose, August 28, 2013. Accessed on November 9, 2014. Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/prevention/overdose_fact_sheet.pdf
 SAMHSA. Opioid Overdose Toolkit. Accessed November 5, 2014. Available at: http://store.samhsa.gov/product/Opioid-Overdose-Prevention-Toolkit-Updated-2014/SMA14-4742
http://static1.squarespace.com/static/54df9e41e4b0060372877a19/t/54ee8f1be4b0186d6a4eb9b9/1424920347427/AMA+Harm+Reduction+and+NSC+urge+NGA+to+focus+on+treatment+Feb+2015+sign+on+with+sigs+FINAL+%281%29.pdf. Accessed on February 25, 2015.
 CDC. Community-Based Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs Providing Naloxone – United States, 2010.. MMWR 2012; 61:101-105.
 Walley Alexander Y, Xuan Ziming, Hackman H Holly, Quinn Emily, Doe-Simkins Maya, Sorensen-Alawad Amy et al. Opioid overdose rates and implementation of overdose education and nasal naloxone distribution in Massachusetts: interrupted time series analysis BMJ 2013;346:f174.
 The Network for Public Health Law. Legal Interventions to Reduce Overdose Mortality: Naloxone Access and Overdose Good Samaritan Laws. https://www.networkforphl.org/_asset/qz5pvn/network-naloxone-10-4.pdf. Accessed on February 25, 2015.
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