As Opioids Mix, More Naloxone Needed To Stop Overdoses

May 31, 2017

The overdose reversal drug naloxone is in high demand across Indiana. But the state is now seeing more mixes of opioids causing overdoses. That’s leading first responders to go through their supplies more quickly.

Overdoses caused by multiple types of opioids require larger or repeated doses of naloxone.

Justin Phillips founded the group Overdose Lifeline and says first responders may have to administer as many as a dozen doses of naloxone to combat one overdose caused by a mix of drugs.

But she says that’s better than not using the antidote at all.

“If we did not have naloxone, the bodies would be piled up the way we saw in history with plagues,” she says.

Thom Duddy is a spokesman for ADAPT Pharma – the maker of Narcan, a naloxone nasal spray. He says the efficacy of the treatment is not compromised by a mix of opioids.

“Naloxone and Narcan are opioid antagonists, so they do work on synthetic opioids as well as organic opioids,” he says.

He says stronger, synthetic opioid-triggered cases may require more doses of Narcan or an IV drip of naloxone once a person has reached the hospital.

In Indiana, Phillips says emergency responders are not yet facing a naloxone deficit, but the need for repeated doses has depleted some departments’ supplies more quickly than anticipated.

“Eventually, especially because of the increase in the use and the requiring so many uses on one overdose, we will run out,” she says.

She says she’s aware the state is working on a plan to ensure departments do not face a shortage in the future. Overdose Lifeline currently funds naloxone distribution through donations and money from the Attorney General’s office.

Phillips says in Indianapolis alone, naloxone stops an otherwise fatal overdose for 1,500 people in the span of an average month.

She says Cass, Whitley, Scott, Clark and Vanderburgh counties are using more naloxone than most others in the state.