There are many misconceptions about naloxone, including that is only for people who use illicit drugs and with the Australian Government’s Take-Home Naloxone Pilot ending this month, and if it is to be of benefit to consumers it is essential for all health professionals to address the stigma associated with naloxone.
Queensland pharmacist Nicolette Ellis from Beyond Pain, who has worked with many consumers who could benefit from Take Home Naloxone, says patients who are prescribed opioids are usually apprehensive about naloxone therapy because of stigma.
“I commonly recommend this to patients prescribed opioid therapy and liken it to being trained to provide CPR. Most people undertake CPR training and never have to use it but in the rare case that you do at least you are trained and prepared.
“Prescription opioids are the leading cause of drug induced deaths and more than 75% of these deaths are unintentional. Naloxone therapy can be lifesaving.
“Most drug induced deaths from prescription opioids occur in the presence of another person and like many medical emergencies, time is of the essence. For anyone who is prescribed opioids whether that is for the treatment of persistent pain, cancer pain or palliative care I would recommend seeking advice from your GP or pharmacist on accessing naloxone and to train yourself, friends and family on how to administer it. “
Ms Ellis said she has had many awful “heart-sinking” conversations with patients who live with pain that have experienced and thankfully all survived an unintentional overdose from prescription opioids.
“In most cases it was their family member who found them, and they had to wait for an ambulance to arrive to administer naloxone therapy. Luckily in all cases the ambulance was fast enough but this is sadly not always the case.
“We need to change the stigma surrounding naloxone therapy. Anyone at risk of opioid overdose should consider it as an option to reduce the harms that can occur from prescription opioids."