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Overdose Drug For Heroin And Opiate Users Now Available In Colorado

DENVER (CBS4) - Colorado pharmacies can now prescribe a potentially lifesaving drug to people who've overdosed on some prescription medicines or heroin.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers expanded access to the drug naloxone. Any pharmacy in the state can now sell the drug, also known as Narcan, to a person without a prescription. It's a lifesaving antidote that costs about $20.

"The first month we were here we actually had a young guy overdose across the street," said Dan Scales who owns Scales Pharmacy in Denver.

Scales says heroin and opiate overdoses are a growing problem.

"Hopefully we'll have more people reaching out; more parents and friends, family -- those that are dealing with this issue with their loved ones," he said.

The University of Colorado School of Pharmacy along with a statewide prescription pill consortium are working to educate patients, doctors and pharmacies about naloxone.

"We're trying to encourage people if they are on high dose of an opioid for chronic pain or severe pain to have the antidote available in case of an accidental overdose," Dr. Robert Valuck with the CU School of Pharmacy said.

Naloxone.(credit: CBS)

An opiate or heroin overdose blocks signals from the brain to the lungs and stops breathing. Naloxone restores that signal. It saved Nicole Gaudet's life 10 times. She's now a recovering heroin addict.

"It gives you another chance of life. I mean it essentially gives you a chance to recover," Gaudet said.

With heroin and opiate overdoses a growing problem, more pharmacies are likely to be carrying naloxone.

"Most people overdose unintentionally, didn't want to, and again we lose one person every 15 minutes in the United States," Valuck said.

Naloxone's effects last only 30 minutes, so it's not a cure all. Overdose patients still need to get to the hospital for medical help.

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