Pharmacies provide key weapon in fight against drug overdose increase

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Kansas saw a 54 percent increase in drug overdoses the first six months of 2021.

Experts say fentanyl is a great reason. Many people might get drugs on the street, not knowing they’re laced with fentanyl. They also might get an unfamiliar prescription and accidentally take too much.

“The reason that it can be so dangerous is because it is much stronger than basically any other opioid available on the street or on the market as a prescription,” Stormont Vail Pharmacist Maia Ray, PharmD said.

A medication to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose is available. It’s naloxone, also known as Narcan.

“What they do is, when you have taken an opioid, it takes the opioid and kicks it off of the receptors in your body so that it is no longer causing that danger to you from being stuck to those receptors,” Ray explained.

Pharmacies are on the front lines of helping people get their hands on the medication. Ray and Stormont Vail are part of the state’s naloxone dispensing program. Kansas allows pharmacists to sign up for a protocol allowing them to provide naloxone prescriptions by request.

“When you come into the pharmacy asking for it, we assess by a couple questions if you would be eligible for us to write you a prescription and you can walk out the door with it that day,” she said.

Ray says naloxone comes as a nasal spray or injection, both easy to administer But she says it’s not a substitute for calling 911.

“It is something that can bridge the gap until emergency services arrive, but it’s definitely not a replacement because, while some opioids can stick around in your body and try to get back on those receptors for hours, naloxone or narcan does not necessarily last that long, even with multiple doses,” she said.

It’s also not a substitute for getting help for an addiction. Ray says, as part of the state’s protocol, they provide information on addiction prevention services whenever they provide naloxone.

Ray says anyone with a loved one at risk because of recreational use or a valid medical prescription should consider having naloxone on hand.

“You just really want to be sure that you’re prepared for the worst to happen,” she said. “It’s worth, I think, everyone looking into for any kind of opioid use, no matter what the situation is.”

Ray says any information provided by people who seek a naloxone prescription is governed by privacy laws.

“We are not interested in going to law enforcement. We want to keep people safe,” she said.

Numerous pharmacies around northeast Kansas participate in the state’s naloxone program. You can find a participating provider by clicking here.

Find information on naloxone training

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