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On June 1, changes will go into effect in Baltimore that will expand access to the opioid overdose reversal drug, Naloxone.

As we have discussed previously, opioid overdoses have created a state of emergency in Maryland, so designated by Governor Hogan. The first three quarters (January-September) of last year saw nearly 1700 deaths in Maryland. State officials are constantly redoubling their efforts and looking for new ways to try to provide help and defense for struggling addicts. The latest change to go into effect will make naloxone available in Baltimore pharmacies as an over-the-counter medication. Previously, access to naloxone was more limited. One way of obtaining it was to complete a certification training program through the Maryland Overdose Response Program. This program provided training on recognizing an overdose and using the drug to revive someone. The certification, along with a prescription from a doctor, were the two ways in which you could purchase naloxone. However, with the new legislation that is set to go into effect on June 1, no prescription or certification will be required. City officials have expressed concern that the certification program may be too time intensive or difficult for some. The state of emergency necessitates that as many people as possible can have access to naloxone, widening the net that this lifesaving drug could be casting.

Some have expressed concern that the drug will still have limited accessibility given its high price point. When not covered by insurance, the out-of-pocket cost for the most common version of naloxone (the nasal spray, Narcan) could range from $140 to $190. Many addicts or their friends/family may not be in a position to afford that. However, local officials are still optimistic that this is a step in the right direction to getting help to more people. Baltimore city pharmacists have been amping up training and education to better be able to inform patients about how to properly use the drug to save someone’s life in the case of an overdose. Experts say that this drug shouldn’t be exclusively considered in the case of heroin or fentanyl addiction. Anyone taking prescription painkillers (even prescribed), or first responders that might risk skin contact and resultant intoxication/overdose, could need naloxone. Given the state of affairs across the country, this is truly something that anyone in a financial position to be able to do so, should obtain a unit of naloxone in case of an emergency. I personally have witnessed a stranger overdosing in their car in a Panera parking lot, in the middle of a weekday. You never know when you might encounter an overdose situation, and you just might be able to save a life. Further, if you are close to anyone in recovery or in a recovery community, you know how real the possibility of relapse is. Overdoses are even more common when an addict returns to using after a period of sobriety, so having this on hand is of vital importance.