APTA has long supported the important role of physical therapy in providing a safe alternative to opioids for pain management. But as health care stewards in society, another way PTs and PTAs can contribute is by having the medication naloxone available in case of an overdose.
In fact, APTA’s official position is that naloxone should be accessible where PT services are provided to be administered to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in accordance with recommendations from the Surgeon General of the United States. A year ago, in an address to APTA leaders, the Surgeon General urged association members to learn to administer the drug.
Here are 5 things you should know about naloxone, along with links to more information—including the Surgeon General’s recommendations.
1. Before administering naloxone, make sure to check your State Practice Act.
Refer to state practice acts for specifics on regulations that might be in place for the administration of naloxone. Also check insurance policies for the hospital or clinic to make sure any possible liabilities are covered.
2. Naloxone can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it attaches to opioid receptors and reverses and blocks the effects of other opioids. Naloxone can quickly restore normal breathing to a person if their breathing has slowed or stopped because of an opioid overdose. Naloxone is not a treatment for opioid use disorder—it has no effect on someone who does not have opioids in their system.
3. Learn about naloxone.
Naloxone normally would fall within a drug category that requires a prescription, but in response to the opioid epidemic all 50 states have passed laws to make it easier to obtain, and most pharmacies carry it. Either the pharmacist can prescribe it on the spot when you go to a pharmacy, or a standing order can be set up that acts like a prescription anyone can fill. Find out which states make naloxone available without a prescription, or search the internet for “get naloxone in [your city].” And check out these Q&As on acquiring naloxone.
To learn even more, view the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) toolkit that outlines steps for first responders: Toolkit: 5 Essential Steps for First Responders.
4. Consider training for administering naloxone — it’s easy to find.
Most local health departments provide training and information, as does the American Red Cross.
5. Include an emergency response plan for your hospital or clinic.
Make sure administration of naloxone in case of opioid overdose is included in plans for medical emergencies in your facility. Refer to the SAMHSA toolkit for guidance.
Get more information from the Surgeon General, CDC, HHS, FDA, and other sources.
- US Surgeon General’s Advisory on Naloxone and Opioid Overdose
- Naloxone FAQs
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Department of Health and Human Services Guidance on Naloxone Use
- US Food and Drug Administration