With the drug abuse epidemic rising in Wisconsin, Walgreens is taking a step to limit the dangers of heroin and other opiates by providing Narcan’s naloxone prescription-free in stores.
Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso said Walgreens is providing the lifesaving drug naloxone without a prescription. He said the store is also launching a safe medication disposal plan that will install disposal kiosks at 500 store locations across 39 states.
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According to U.S National Library of Medicine, naloxone is a drug that treats narcotic overdose in an emergency situation. Naloxone overrides the bond between the opiate and receptors in a person’s brain.
Kris Murphy, development directer at Wisconsin United We CAN, said the program will be successful at “keeping people alive,” but that is not enough. She said naloxone would be the last option for an addict who overdoses, but cannot be treated as an addiction prevention method.
Murphy said once naloxone is administered, the patient goes into “precipitated withdrawals,” which is more painful than regular withdrawal symptoms. Some people may use naloxone to recover from an overdose and then start abusing drugs again, she said.
“Where there is breath, there is hope,” Murphy said. “There is no chance of recovery for a dead addict.”
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While naloxone will be prescription-free in Walgreens, Caruso said it is still not an over the counter drug. To gain access to naloxone, a person must be trained to use the drug and given other information about the drug and safety by a pharmacist, he said.
Murphy said programs similar to Walgreens’ are already established in Wisconsin. People can get free naloxone at any AIDS Resource Center in Wisconsin, but they first have to attain a prescription from an ARCW physician, she said.
Wisconsin United We CAN trains addicts’ family members to use naloxone, Murphy said. Trainers from the ARCW can give family members prescriptions for naloxone as well since parents are usually the first responders to overdose.
Murphy said she supports Walgreens’ program. She said the more people know about resources that combat drug addiction, the more likely they are to use it.
Joel DeSpain, Madison Police Department spokesperson, said MPD strongly supports Walgreens’ efforts to provide naloxone to more people who need it.
He said all officers at the Madison Police Department now carry naloxone to address a possible overdose on the spot.
“Naloxone is the key to saving lives,” DeSpain said.
Walgreens aims to have naloxone available in pharmacies in Wisconsin by the end of 2016.