By Christian Smith
After an overdose earlier this week, Demi Lovato's life was reportedly saved by Narcan, a nasal administrator of naloxone that counteracts the effects of opioids. When administered quicklyーthrough either nasal mist or injectionーnaloxone can temporarily halt an overdose, allowing EMTs enough time to respond. The medication is available without a prescription in 49 states, and the generic version costs about $20 per dose.
But all merits aside, is the drug's accessibility enabling addicts to push their limits?
Dr. Roger Crystal, the lead inventor of Narcan and CEO of Opiant Pharmaceuticals, says there's little evidence to support that concern.
"Addiction like any kind of chronic disease is something you can control using better medication, but ultimately you can't cure," Crystal told Cheddar. "To think about an opioid addict behaving rationally and saying, 'well because I have access to Narcan I'll shoot more heroin, inject more heroin' there's no proof for that whatsoever."
Naloxone is considered some of the best ammunition on the front lines of America's growing opioid epidemic. A reported 2 million Americans have an addition to opioidsーand the number isn't going down. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory in April urging anyoneーand their close family and friendsーwho uses painkillers, heroin, fentanyl, or other opioids to carry naloxone in case of an emergency.
Crystal isn't stopping at Narcan: he told Cheddar he's also developing a heroin vaccine, suggesting the inventor has lofty ambitions for the future of overdose prevention.
Although Crystal may be aware of lingering ethical concerns, he doesn't think they dwarf his mission. After all, Lovato has him to thank.
"Putting it in the hands of everyone and anyone is critical," Crystal said.
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