HEALTH

Naloxone has been used to reverse opiate overdoses 10,000 times in Utah, nonprofit says

Jan 9, 2024, 3:00 PM

Naloxone vials, utah...

Riley Drage, a Utah Naloxone trainer, holds a naloxone vial prior to training for opioid overdose in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The drug naloxone has been used more than 10,000 times by non-medical persons in Utah to save people from opioid overdoses, announced a Utah nonprofit this week.

Nonprofit organization Utah Naloxone said 10,000 overdose-reversals happened between 2015 and 2023.

Dr. Jennifer Plumb, who serves as the medical director for the nonprofit, said that doesn’t necessarily mean 10,000 individuals were saved from death. Some of those reversals could have been for the same person.

“Sometimes people struggle for a little while before they get to the point where they are not using anymore,” Plumb said.

What it does mean, she continued, is, “10,000 times, a non-medical Utahn stepped up and said, ‘I don’t want this person to die today.’ ”

While access and use of the drug have saved countless lives, Plumb said it’s terrifying that there have been so many life-or-death situations in which it has been needed.

According to Utah’s Public Health Indicator Based Information System, overdoses are the leading cause of death in the state.

IBIS reports that seven Utahns die of opiate overdoses every week.

In the face of an ongoing opioid crisis, Plumb said she hopes more people will start carrying naloxone.

Who can and should carry naloxone in Utah?

The drug has been available to non-medical people in Utah for about a decade. A 2014 law allows any Utahn to administer naloxone to anyone whom they “reasonably believe” is experiencing an opiate overdose.

Plumb said that anywhere there are opioids, someone should have naloxone.

“I encourage people to think about all the different spaces around them where they might have a situation where they could save a life.”

Those spaces may not be obvious, Plumb added. It could be in a hospice. In the home of a loved one receiving treatment for cancer or chronic pain, for example.

Overdoses can happen anywhere and for many reasons.

“There are people who overdose on their prescribed medications; medications that were prescribed appropriately for them. They forgot they took their eight o’clock dose; they take it again at nine o’clock. Or they take it with a cold pill or, you know, whatever brings it to be too much for their bodies,” Plumb said.

Kids can accidentally ingest medications.

How to get naloxone 

Training in using naloxone is available at the Utah Naloxone website.

After training, Utahns receive doses through the mail or pick them up at local libraries and pharmacies.

“You learn how to do it. You have the kit and then you also are willing to step up for somebody,” Plumb said.

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Naloxone has been used to reverse opiate overdoses 10,000 times in Utah, nonprofit says