Minnesota is making it easier to get ahold of the drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, with state officials saying Friday it's available at pharmacies without a prescription.
The Health Department and Board of Pharmacy say there's now an agreed-upon procedure – a protocol – so even drug stores that don't carry naloxone can get it for a customer who wants the antidote.
Health officials emphasize that using naloxone (sold under the brand name Narcan) is no substitute for seeing a doctor or a professional in mental or chemical health. But it can save lives by reversing an overdose of prescription painkillers or heroin.
“Getting naloxone from a pharmacy is an option that may prevent a tragedy and be more comfortable and convenient for some people,” says Cody Wiberg, who directs the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy.
Who should use it and how
The Health Department says drug overdose deaths in Minnesota quadrupled from 2000 to 2015. And by 2015 more than half of the deaths involved prescription medications, not street drugs.
Ambulance crews and law enforcement started carrying naloxone a few years ago. A new state law that took effect at the start of this year made the antidote available to all Minnesotans.
Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger says anyone who's concerned about their own opiate use or that of someone around them should keep naloxone on hand.
It's available as an injection or a nasal spray. It takes 2 to 5 minutes for it to take effect. If there's no response after five minutes, a second dose might be needed.