HEALTH

Utah Naloxone provides reminders about the dangers of fentanyl

May 7, 2024, 1:00 PM

A bill that would make drug-induced homicide a felony is being debated in the state legislature. Bi...

FILE: (Utah County Sheriff's Office)

(Utah County Sheriff's Office)

SALT LAKE CITY — The United States Attorney for the District of Utah wants to make more people aware of the dangers of fentanyl.  A release from their office said that nationwide fentanyl is taking the lives of more than 150 people every day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.”

Dr. Jennifer Plumb is the co-founder of Utah Naloxone. She said that because of how prevalent opioids are, everyone should have access to naloxone.

Plumb is also an emergency room doctor. 

Naloxone is also known by the brand name Narcan

FILE – The overdose-reversal drug Narcan is displayed during training for employees of the Public Health Management Corporation on Dec. 4, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

“Naloxone essentially has one job. It’s a pure antidote. The only thing that it does is reverse an opioid overdose,” said Plumb. “A whole group of us…worked with and lobbied the FDA to get them to make it over the counter because it really is such a safe medication. People having access to it is crucial and it’s not something that can hurt anyone.” 

Naloxone saves lives

According to Plumb, naloxone should be placed over the counter, where everyone can see and access it.  Naloxone has a long record for safe and effective use. 

“At least in Utah, Naloxone has been around since, I think it’s patented in 1961. We’ve used it in hospitals and EMS since 1971. And then in this last decade or so, we’ve gotten the ability to use it as non-medical [professionals,]” said Plumb.  

Additionally, the emergency room physician said that in almost 10 years, there have been 10,646 reported uses of naloxone to save lives.

“You can’t really relive pain with it. People cannot get a sense of euphoria or high from it. You can’t overdose on it. It’s one of those substances that I wish there were more of.”

Naloxone only works on opioids. 

The dangers of fentanyl

Plumb said that opioids, like fentanyl, are far more dangerous than most people realize.

“The problem with opiates is that when you take too many of them and sometimes you know, that’s not even a number you would be worried about some for some folks. You can be prescribed an opiate medication. Your system is very naive to them and the next thing you know, you’ve overdosed on a prescription pain medication,” said Plumb. 

“Naloxone reverses the opioid overdose part, which is that you’re not breathing…and you’re not getting enough oxygen which means your body can’t function. If you’re [without oxygen] for three, four, or five minutes, you’re losing brain cells.”

According to Plumb, there are a couple of ways to administer naloxone.

“The medical gold standard way is through an injection. It goes right into a muscle. So …[the] outside of your arm, your outside of your thigh, [or] a big butt muscle and it goes into a big needle and it’s the same dose for everyone,” said Plumb. 

Secondly, there is an option to administer naloxone through the nose. 

“For some folks, that feels more palatable. You [put] this little plastic applicator up in the nose and depress it with your thumb and it’ll get this medication right up on those capillary blood vessels in the nose,” said Plumb. 

When should naloxone be administered? 

Plumb said that as an ER doctor, she has seen opioid overdoses on a selection of opiates, including heroin, leretab, and fentanyl.

She also explained when someone should receive naloxone. According to Plumb, there are “some pretty telltale signs.” 

 “The way you tell is first of all that [someone is] out cold and not responding to you. And then when you pop their eyes open and look at their pupil, it’s a tiny tiny little piece of pepper, a little black dot,” said Plumb. 

Plumb said that Utah Naloxone offers free training and naloxone kits through their website.

“We have a lot of them. We do trainings every three or four weeks or so,” said Plumb. “People can just put them up on their computer or their Zoom.” 

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Utah Naloxone provides reminders about the dangers of fentanyl