Countries should increase access to the overdose antidote naloxone in order to lower deaths from opioids around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) says in recently released guidelines.
Naloxone is used in an emergency when an individual is overdosing from opioids like heroin, oxycodone and morphine. In the U.S. alone, naloxone has stopped 10,171 overdoses between 2006 and 2010.
The new WHO guidelines recommend countries ensure that more people have access to naloxone, especially people who are at a risk for witnessing an overdose, like family members and friends of a drug user. Social workers should also have access to the drug, the WHO says. Currently, the people who have access to the life-saving drugs are hospital and ambulance workers. “Any adult capable of learning basic life support can also learn to recognize an opioid overdose, and administer naloxone in time to save lives,” the WHO said in a statement.
Each year around 69,000 people worldwide die from an opioid overdose, the WHO says. It’s the second most common cause of death among people who inject drugs after HIV.
Access requirements will differ among countries, but in the U.S., one of the reasons it’s difficult to access naloxone is that many American pharmacists and doctors don’t know they can prescribe the drug outside of a hospital setting, as TIME reported in June. The drug is also not always reimbursed by insurance.
You can read the WHO’s new recommendations here.
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