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A New Standing Order On Naloxone Availability Is Saving Lives In Pennsylvania

The standing order signed by Pennsylvania's physician general in October last year making naloxone available to all of the state's residents brought a lot of relief to many people. The antidote is usually very effective in cases of opioid overdose. Many of the residents reckon that by making naloxone readily available, the lives of many overdose victims may be saved.

Those who have attempted to buy the drug agree that there is a lot of misunderstanding by the public and pharmacy staff about the issued standing order and its meaning. The initial process of obtaining the drug was also complicated and too long. Anyone could have died from overdose while waiting for it to become available.

In October 2015, Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania Physician General, basically gave everyone in the state a prescription for naloxone by signing a statewide standing order. In March 2016, she started a tour to explain to residents and pharmacists across the state the meaning and implication of the order. She says that she issued the order because of the magnitude of the problem and by the time help reaches an overdose victim it may be too late. Levine made it clear that nobody becomes high as a result of taking naloxone and therefore it could not be abused. Its function is only to reverse the effects of opiates.

Theoretically, anyone can now go to the pharmacy and obtain the antidote even without a prescription. Unfortunately so far that has not been the case. Several pharmacies are not even aware of the order while some pharmacists believe that it is against federal and state law to obtain naloxone without a prescription.

There have been diverse opinions from different quarters about the standing order. Some people wonder why the state should spend a lot of money to save drug addicts when they'll just resume their old habits once they are saved from overdose situations. Michael Donahue, an administrator at Luzerne County Alcohol and Drug Services, said that addiction, just like any other disease, should be treated in the short term in order to give patients an opportunity to receive lasting cure. He believes that simply making the antidote readily available will save the lives of many and provide them with a chance to get clean.

Parents like Carol Coolbaugh and Maureen Kasenchak who have lost their children due to opioid overdose say that addiction is not a sign of bad parenting. This is because in the same family where one child is an addict, you'll find that some siblings have done really well in life. Despite losing a son as a result of drug overdose, Kasenchak has another son who is a physician. She says that her late son was a very caring person but very vulnerable emotionally. He used drugs as a coping mechanism. Kasenchak and Coolbaugh believe that their children could still be alive if they had quick access to the antidote naloxone. They have decided to get the word out so that other people in the state do not suffer the same fate as them or their children.


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