WASHINGTON - The top US doctor on Thursday urged more Americans to carry naloxone, an antidote to opioid overdose, as the nation grapples with a surge in deaths due to potent prescription painkillers and heroin.
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams urged people who struggle with opioid abuse and their family members and friends to obtain naloxone from a pharmacy, and learn to use it in case of emergency.
"Increasing the availability and targeted distribution of naloxone is a critical component of our efforts to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths and, when combined with the availability of effective treatment, to ending the opioid epidemic," Adams said in a statement.
"In most states, people who are or who know someone at risk for opioid overdose can go to a pharmacy or community-based program, to get trained on naloxone administration, and receive naloxone by 'standing order,' i.e., without a patient-specific prescription."
Naloxone, if given in time, can revive a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped due to an overdose.
It is already widely carried by emergency responders responding to crisis calls.
More than 64,000 people died of drug overdose in 2016 in the United States, with the sharpest increase among deaths related to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is often mixed with heroin.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths from prescription and illicit opioids doubled from 21,089 in 2010 to 42,249 in 2016.