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Adding naloxone to your first aid kit can be a lifesaver

Posted at 10:11 AM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 12:36:01-04

Intermountain Healthcare has expanded the focus on naloxone education to improve patient safety. The healthcare system has set a goal in 2022 to have 25 percent of patients with an opioid prescription to also have a naloxone prescription within 12 months of receiving the opioid. Before this year, the number of patients with an opioid prescription and naloxone was at 4 percent.

Intermountain has worked with providers, clinicians, and pharmacists in having naloxone discussions with all patients receiving an opioid prescription. Anyone taking an opioid, for any reason, is at risk of opioid overdose, even those taking opioids exactly as prescribed. 

Having an opioid prescription in the house is also a risk for others, such as children or pets accidentally taking them. Family or friends are also potentially at risk for accidental use or intentional overdose.

“This is just as important as having a fire extinguisher in the house,” said Kim Compagni, Pain Management Services Assistant Vice President for Intermountain. “You never want to think this can happen to you, your family or child, but it can. Be prepared.”

Naloxone, or sometimes known as the product Narcan, is an opioid-reversal medication. It can react to the potentially fatal overdose effects.  

This goal of naloxone prescribing is part of Intermountain’s commitment to reducing opioid overdose and deaths as set out before 2015. The healthcare system set a goal in 2017 to drastically reduce the number of opioid tablets given for acute pain conditions, short-term pain such as with a broken arm or outpatient surgery.

If a patient had an acute care condition, the goal was to educate the patient on pain management alternatives to opioids or fill a prescription for up to three days – the time needed to get through the initial pain.

“The message that we want people to hear is that some pain is expected especially after a surgery, and the goal is not always to be pain free” Compagni said. “Setting appropriate pain goals with your doctor is important.”

Since 2017, Intermountain has prescribed less than 12 million opioid tablets. In 2021, the next phase was to cut down on high-dose (potency) opioid tablets, otherwise known as the morphine-milligram equivalence (MME). The higher the MME of an opioid, the higher the potential risk for addiction and overdose. Intermountain was able to cut the percent of high dose opioid prescriptions over 90 MME from 14 percent to just under 6 percent.

The 2022 naloxone goal also works in collaboration with Utah Naloxone, a not-for-profit advocacy group that has been working to get the message about the importance of naloxone for over a decade, led by Dr. Jennifer Plumb.

Education for both heath providers and the public has been crucial to opioid awareness and saving lives. Intermountain, Utah Department of Health and others have worked through the public awareness campaigns to accomplish this, such as with “Stop The Opidemic” run by the Utah Department of Health.

Know Your Script, originally called Use Only As Directed has worked to help educate on the dangers as well as safe disposal. To find a drop box for any unused, expired medications, visit knowyourscript.org.

Learn more about Utah Naloxone at utahnaloxone.org.