HealthDay News — Allowing more emergency medical service workers to administer the prescription drug naloxone could reduce the number of overdose deaths caused by opioids, according to research published online in the American Journal of Public Health.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers reviewed nationwide data from 2012 and found that advanced EMS staffers were more likely than basic emergency medical service (EMS) staffers to administer naloxone.
One of the big reasons: as of 2014, only 12 states allowed basic EMS staffers to administer naloxone for a suspected opioid overdose, but all 50 states allowed advanced EMS staffers to do so, the CDC researchers noted. They recommend expanding training on the administration of naloxone to all emergency service staffers, and helping basic EMS personnel meet the advanced certification requirements.
The researchers found that naloxone was most likely to be given to women, patients ages 20 to 29, and suburban residents. In general, the opioid overdose death rate was 45% higher in rural areas than in urban areas, but the use of naloxone by rural EMS staffers was only 22.5% higher than among urban EMS staffers.
“Opioid overdose deaths are devastating families and communities, especially in rural areas,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a CDC news release. “Many of these deaths can be prevented by improving prescribing practices to prevent opioid addiction, expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment, and increasing use of naloxone for suspected overdoses. Having trained EMS staff to administer naloxone in rural areas will save lives.”