Talking to patients and their families about Naloxone should be done with care. Family members may have several questions about the drug and will likely need reassurance about its safety, how and when to administer, and why it’s necessary. Patients may feel embarrassed or ashamed when discussing their opioid use, so it’s crucial that you help them to feel comfortable.
Here are some tips for how to talk to patients and their families about naloxone:
Explain the reasons you’re talking about naloxone
The use of opioids comes with inherent risks, whether they are being used properly and being abused. Patients and their families need to understand that anyone using opioids is at risk of an overdose. Naloxone is a safety measure that is wise to discuss before potential overdoses occur. Let your patients and their families know that talking about this subject is responsible, proactive, and potentially life-saving.
Make sure the family has a plan in place
It’s important that families of opioid users have a plan in place for when overdoses happen. Family members need to be able to recognize the signs of an opioid emergency, including slow breathing, snoring or gurgling, lips or fingernails turning pale, gray, or blue, or if a person won’t wake up even after being shaken.
When an emergency does occur, families need to be advised to call 911 even if naloxone is administered. It’s also important that naloxone should be kept in a safe place that every family member is aware of and that is easily accessed in case of an emergency. Be sure to tell them that this storage place should be room temperature and out of direct light.
Explain that tolerances change over time
A patient who has been using opioids for pain for an extended period may try to tell you that they don’t need naloxone because they have a high tolerance. It’s important that they understand how tolerances change over time. Especially if the patient stops using opioids at some point, they will have a much lower tolerance and be at risk of overdosing if they start using opioids again.
Discuss the stigma of enabling
Many people still believe that the availability of naloxone enables drug users, but this simply isn’t true. Naloxone puts opioid users into withdrawal, which is not a feeling that anyone wants. The possible effects include nausea, vomiting, agitation, and muscle aches.
If a family is hesitant to learn about naloxone because they fear that they will be enabling drug abuse, they need to understand the facts and the risks. This fear not science-based. Patients and families need to realize that educating themselves about naloxone is potentially life-saving and needs to taken seriously.
Lorne Cross, MD is a healthcare professional from Portland, Oregon, who specializes in Addiction Medicine. It’s no secret that the United States is facing an opioid crisis. There are more lives lost to overdose deaths each year than were lost in the entire Vietnam War, and new data shows that opioids now kill more people each year than breast cancer. Understanding and treating the opioid crisis is of utmost importance to this country, and Dr. Cross has chosen to specialize in Addiction Medicine and focus all of his professional attention on this critical problem.
As the Medical Director of the Willamette Valley Treatment Center, Dr. Cross is the leader of a team that provides Medication Assisted Treatment to patients with Opioid Use Disorder. Lorne Cross, MD also serves as the Medical Director of a new Opioid Treatment Program in the Yamhill County Jail. Focusing on the treatment of opiate addiction, rather than punishment, can help to prevent relapse, decrease the rate of overdose deaths, and help to lower recidivism in the jail population, putting inmates on the right path upon release. Giving patients a path to recovery ultimately sets them up for more success in their futures.
Dr. Cross is hopeful as he looks into the future of treatment opportunities for opiate addiction. He sees the expansion of treatment into jails and prisons as a necessary step towards treating the opioid crisis and preventing unnecessary overdose deaths. Treating addiction with a rehabilitative approach is one of the best ways to reach out to those who truly need it most.
Senior Medical School Class Officer
Scholastic Honors Program Graduate
John Philip Sousa Award 1988
Years' Experience in Healthcare
Years Serving as a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve
Published Research Articles
From the time he was a child, Lorne Cross, MD was always fascinated by medicine and the natural sciences. By the time he reached college he knew he wanted to attend medical school and pursue his medical degree. He graduated in the top third of his class from Loma Linda University School of Medicine and completed his medicine internship and his anesthesiology residency at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Loma Linda University is a coeducational health sciences university located in California. He is also a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Scholastic Honors Program at Southwestern Adventist College, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology. Southwestern Adventist College is a small college, with an undergraduate enrollment of around 800 students, located in Texas.
Outside of work, Lorne Cross, MD likes to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. He is an avid cyclist and bicycle racer, while actively pursuing many other sports. Outside of spending time exercising, he also loves to travel to new locations and spend time with his two teenage children and family.