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The opioid-overdose antidote naloxone is being more widely distributed to people who use drugs, according to the Associated Press. While many public health officials say it saves lives, critics argue that making the antidote easily available could make people less likely to seek treatment.

Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, safely reverses the potentially fatal side effects of an overdose of oxycodone, heroin and other opioids. It has been routinely used by emergency rooms and ambulance crews for decades, the AP notes. In the past few years, Naloxone has been distributed free to opioid users and their loved ones, in a growing number of sites around the country.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that widely distributing Naloxone, and training people in how to use it, could save many lives. It has successfully reversed more than 10,000 drug overdoses since 1996, according to the CDC report. Naloxone is not effective in treating drug overdoses that do not involve opioids.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have programs to distribute naloxone in the community. The programs train people to identify signs of an overdose and provide naloxone to people who use drugs and their loved ones.


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