The national drug overdose epidemic has been steadily on the rise for nearly 20 years. From 1999 to 2010, deaths surged a colossal 102 percent. And while overdoses kill more people each year than either cars or guns, the debate over what can be done to address the disturbing trend often gets overshadowed by noisier killers.
On Saturday, the 13th annual International Overdose Awareness Day, drug policy reform advocates and those affected by overdoses will gather around the world, putting solutions front and center.
One such solution is naloxone, a prescription-only opiate reversal drug that has already been used to save thousands of lives. Supporters say it could easily save thousands more if it was more widely distributed. Opiate-based prescription drugs and heroin account for the vast majority of overdose deaths, making the debate around naloxone particularly critical.
On its own, naloxone isn't controversial. It was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration in 1971. It's non-addictive, non-toxic, fairly cheap and easy to administer through nasal or intravenous application. Studies have been found that naloxone is capable of reducing overdose deaths by as much as 50 percent when paired with proper training and distribution.