MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Since her swearing into office Governor Kay Ivey has made it clear she wants to stop the opioid addiction growing in Alabama. And the problem hasn't just been in Alabama, it's been growing nationwide.
On August 1st, the Opioid Commission asked President Trump to declare a state of emergency on opioids. The next day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions created the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit to assist. And finally, less than two weeks later, Gov. Ivey created the Alabama Council on Opioid Misuse and Addiction.
Now, the state is taking another step in hopes of reducing the death from opioid overdose.
Dr. Scott Harris, of the Alabama Department of Public Health, says the nation's opioid addiction is a national health crisis, affecting Americans in all walks of life.
“In the past year, we've had over 60,000 deaths in our country from drug overdoses. Maybe as many as two-thirds of those are due to opioids,” Harris said.
Alabama remains the nation's top opioid prescribing state, with more prescriptions for opioids written each year than there are people in the state.
“Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of death for people under 50 years old in this country and there are more deaths every year from drug overdoses than there are from automobile accidents,” Harris said.
When an opioid overdose occurs, the victim will stop breathing and die.
“But a drug called Naloxone can actually reverse the effects of those drugs if it's given in a timely fashion and usually works in less than 5 minutes,” Harris explained.
To combat the trend, Kaleo Pharma is making 600 overdose kits containing Naloxone available to rapid responders in the state. They'll be distributed, starting next week, through the district attorney's office in each county.
“Every dose of this antidote, this life line to folks, will be used and will save lives,” according to Barry Matson, Director of the Alabama District Attorneys Association.
While the effort doesn't address the root problem of addiction or the availability of the drugs, it puts a valuable tool in the hands of police and rapid responders capable of saving as many as 1,200 lives. It's a good start.
Each of the 600 overdose kits will carry two doses of Naloxone, and each responder who receives the kit will also receive special training on its use. The kits are being made available to the state at no charge.