For people who use opioids---whether their use is intentional or accidental, and whether their substance of choice is prescribed or self-administered---overdose is always a risk. Even people with a tolerance for opioids can experience an overdose. In these life threatening situations, naloxone is essential. Without it, many people do not survive. That’s why The Voices Project is spearheading the Overdose Response Initiative with the Clinton Foundation and in partnership with NGO’s Direct Relief and the National Alliance of Recovery Residences. The primary goal of this initiative to help bring recovery residences (also known as sober livings) to scale in providing overdose response supports.
This 3-year initiative will provide free naloxone and digital overdose response training—along with best practices—to recovery residences in the United States. Community organizations that provide direct services for substance use disorder are encouraged to participate. However, initial preference for the free naloxone distribution will be given to recovery residences.
There are an estimated 13,000 recovery residences in the United States. These homes tend to be a first-line of defense for people who are in early recovery from opioid use disorder. Recently, there has been a severe uptick in overdose deaths in recovery homes. Through this partnership and initiative, we hope to eliminate access barriers to the overdose antidote by providing free naloxone along with the necessary training and support for recovery homes to develop individualized overdose response protocols.
This multifaceted initiative works to prevent opioid overdoses. Making naloxone universally available is a key element in fighting substance related death in the United States.
Naloxone is the generic name for Narcan, an opioid blocker medication that stops overdoses and saves lives. The medication is administered via injection or through a nasal inhaler. It can be given to anyone who shows signs of opioid overdose:
● respiratory failure
● slow breathing
● small or pinprick pupils
● blue or pale skin from poor circulation
Most overdoses are not immediately fatal. Naloxone can save a life if it’s given to the person as quickly as possible. Naloxone is effective for 30-90 minutes, and more than one dose may be needed to keep someone alive. Naloxone is an essential part of any First Aid kit, especially in places where people may experience higher risk of opioid exposure, such as sober living homes, hospitals, pharmacies, and households where someone has an opioid prescription.
As fentanyl becomes more prevalent, having naloxone on hand is more important than ever. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that can be mixed into other substances, such as methamphetamines, heroin, and non-prescription pills. Even a small amount of fentanyl can be lethal once it enters the body. Fentanyl overdoses require more than one naloxone kit. If somebody doesn’t revive after the first naloxone kit is administered, they may have been exposed to fentanyl.
The Overdose Response Initiative is important because it acknowledges that anyone, in any family, at any time, can be affected by overdose. Making naloxone universally available helps dispel the stigma of substance use disorder. Just like EpiPens for people with allergies, condoms for HIV prevention and safer sex, and AED machines for people at risk for heart attacks, naloxone is a necessary public health measure. A single naloxone kit can cost anywhere from $0 to $40, depending on your insurance plan. Some nonprofits distribute the kits for free: they should always have two doses of naloxone, to contend with more severe overdoses. Many recovery advocates offer free naloxone training so that families, friends, and caregivers are prepared.
Naloxone is one of the best tools we have in the fight against the national drug epidemic. Let’s make it a universal care measure, for anyone, anywhere whose life is endangered by opioids.