Naloxone (Evzio) can save the life of someone you care about in the case of an accidental exposure to or overdose from opioids—and it will now be available over the counter (without a prescription) in many states. This is a great step forward for better access to a life-saving medication.
What is naloxone?
Naloxone is used to temporarily stop or reverse the effects of powerful opioids that can cause an overdose. Some examples of opioid prescription medications include morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. Opioids can also be combined with acetaminophen or other pain killers as in Vicodin or Percocet.
How is it possible to be accidentally exposed?
Accidental exposure can involve, for example, a child finding a pain medication bottle and ingesting a potentially harmful number of pills.
If I’m taking my medication as prescribed, could I still overdose?
The potential for overdosing on prescription medications, especially pain pills, is very real. In fact, an alarming statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 44 people in the U.S. die each day from an overdose on prescription pain killers.
Surprisingly, an opioid overdose can even happen if you are taking your pain medication as prescribed, particularly if you aren’t aware of the symptoms to watch for or the risks associated with their use.
Common symptoms include trouble breathing, extreme or unusual sleepiness, inability to be awakened, very small pupils, and slow heartbeat.
Who is at risk for an accidental overdose?
Some potential factors that may increase your risk of as opioid overdose include:
- History of abuse or addiction
- Living in the same household as a person who has possession of opioids
- Taking high doses of opioids
- Your doctor changing you to a different opioid dose
- Your doctor switching you to a different opioid
- Certain medical conditions that affect breathing like COPD, asthma, or sleep apnea
- Taking another medication that may interact with your prescription, like antibiotics, medications for sleep, anxiety, or depression, and alcohol.
Are there different types of naloxone available?
Yes. The following are the 2 types of naloxone that are currently available. Brand-name Evzio is available in a 0.4 mg/0.4 mL auto-injector. Generic naloxine is available as a solution for injection, in 0.4 mg/mL and 1 mg/mL strengths. Only Evzio is available in the auto-injector form.
Can my doctor write me a prescription if I can’t get it over-the-counter?
Where can I get naloxone without a prescription?
CVS recently announced that their pharmacists would be able to offer naloxone without a prescription in several states:
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Each state has different legal requirements, so you’ll still want to check with your pharmacist to see if naloxone is available without a prescription in your area.
What about pharmacies other than CVS?
In other states, the pharmacy associations and boards have worked hard to pass laws to allow naloxone to be dispensed without a prescription. You should be able to get naloxone without a prescription from other pharmacies in California, Colorado, Kentucky, and Ohio.
As of July 15, 2015 thirty states and the District of Columbia also have some kind of law in place offering immunity from legal action if you have or use naloxone in case of emergency. These “Good Samaritan” laws allow emergency responders, law enforcement, and friends and family to administer naloxone without prior approval from a doctor. For more information and to find out which states have similar protections, click here.
It is likely that it’s only a matter of time before naloxone will be available without a prescription from your pharmacist in most, if not all, states.