‘The effects of naloxone are amazing’: Hospitals in Colorado give out free doses of opioid overdose antidote to at-risk abusers of fentanyl, prescription opioids or heroin

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Credit: Kelly Wilkinson/Indy Star
Credit: Kelly Wilkinson/Indy Star

[W]hat if hospital physicians simply handed a vial of naloxone to the patients they worry are most likely to die, particularly those who were just rushed to the emergency room after overdosing on fentanyl, prescription opioids or heroin?

That’s the idea behind the “Colorado Naloxone Project,” a group started by a Swedish Medical Center physician. The project already has 47 hospitals committed to dispensing the overdose antidote to at-risk patients as they are discharged from the emergency department.

“For people who have never seen the effects of naloxone, it’s amazing,” said Dr. Don Stader, an emergency physician at Swedish in Englewood. “It’s one of the most miraculous things in medicine. You see people who would have truly died come back to life.”

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“We are in the worst overdose crisis that the United States, Colorado and Denver have ever seen,” said Lisa Raville, executive director of the Harm Reduction Action Center. “Fentanyl is here.”

People who visit the harm reduction center for clean needles, information about treatment programs and naloxone used the antidote to save the lives of 83 others just in the month of March, the highest monthly count so far, Raville said. About 65% of those overdose reversals happened outside, she said.

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