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Counteracting the Effects of an Opioid Overdose

Respiratory depression can occur from accidental and/or intentional overdose of opioid type substances. The neurochemical process, by which the opioid substance binds with opioid receptors in the brain stem and then desensitises the level of carbon dioxide in the blood stream, fails to activate the breathing mechanisms, leading to respiratory failure and death (1). The overdose process can be interrupted and reversed with the administration of an opioid antagonist, such as naloxone, thereby blocking the effects of the ingested opioids.

In 1971, the FDA approved naloxone, the opioid antagonist, reversal medication for public use. This life-saving medication was initially labeled for intravenous, intramuscular, or subcutaneous use. For nearly 50 years, naloxone has been used by emergency medical personnel to counteract the effects of opioid overdoses (1). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the administration of naloxone from the years 1996 to 2014 assisted in reversing the effects of opioid overdoses in an estimated 26,000 opioid users (2).

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About the author

Dr Todd Pizitz is a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist in private practice in Vista, California. As a forensic psychologist, Todd works with those afflicted with various types of addiction. For the past 17 years, he has worked closely with private and public defense attorneys, family court services, the District Attorney’s Office, county adult and juvenile probation, drug court, and federal probation. Todd routinely conducts psychological evaluations on those involved in the legal system.

Donald R Mealing is a Business Entrepreneur with more than 25 years’ experience as a CEO over a variety of successful businesses. Don has served on numerous Boards, including 14 years on the Board of Regents, Harris Manchester College, Oxford University, UK. He was Founder and CEO of American Corrective Counseling Services, one of the largest private counselling diversion companies servicing courts and prosecutors across the US criminal justice system. Don has lost three close relatives to opioid overdose.
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