Amid an opioid crisis that is claiming tens of thousands of lives each year, the U.S. surgeon general on Thursday urged Americans to start carrying a drug that reverses overdoses.
It marks the first time in 13 years that the nation’s top doctor has issued a public health advisory.
Speaking at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said more Americans should start carrying the overdose antidote naloxone to help combat the crisis and save lives.
“You don’t have to be a policeman or a firefighter or a paramedic to save a life,” said Adams, who pointed out that more than half of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. occur at home.
According to federal data, more than 42,000 Americans suffered fatal opioid overdoses in 2016, more than double the number who died in 2010.
Naloxone can restore a person’s breathing after it is injected or sprayed in the nostrils, quickly bringing overdose victims back from near death.
The drug, which is often referred to by the brand name Narcan, is available without a prescription in most states and is regularly used by first responders across the country. Another product, Evzio, is available with a prescription and delivers naloxone via a hand-held auto-injector.
Many who work with naloxone applauded the public health advisory.