by Nate Church

The U.S. Surgeon General is urging citizens to carry opioid overdose kits in hopes of cutting the mortality cost of our country’s opioid epidemic.

Dr. Jerome Adams has issued a formal advisory asking Americans to consider carrying kits that contain Naloxone, a drug with the potential to save the life of someone overdosing on opioids. This is the first such advisory in 13 years — the last one warned against alcohol use during pregnancy.

At the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, Adams explained: “Surgeon general advisories are issued when there is a major health problem and a need for a call to action.”

“One of the things we’re trying to do is help the public understand that we’re losing a person every 12.5 minutes from an opioid overdose, and … over half of these overdoses are occurring at home,” Adams said. “So we have firefighters, we have EMTs, we have police officers carrying Naloxone, but we can save so many more lives if we can empower the citizens, the loved ones, the family members to carry Naloxone.”

“Folks are overdosing around them each and every day and they can help save a life,” he explained, but they simply may not realize it. The need, however, is urgent. An estimated 2.1 million Americans battle addiction to opioids, which were responsible for over 42,000 deaths in 2016. The number of fatalities doubled between 2010-2016, setting off alarms throughout our healthcare system.

Now the government and health professionals are scrambling to find a solution before too many more have been lost.

Adams wants people to understand that Naxalone — also known as “Narcan” — is much like CPR, a tourniquet, or an epi-pen. “We don’t give you one shot at a lifesaving intervention and then just leave you. We treat you as if you have a problem that is going to take a long time to definitively fix.”

Most important to remember, however, is “addiction’s a chronic disease,” he said. “It’s not a moral failing and there’s not going to be a magic fix. It’s important that we use Naloxone as a bridge to definitive treatment and long-term recovery.”