A New Approach to an Old Problem
The concept of a rescue medication is by no means novel – we use albuterol to treat asthma attacks, an EpiPen to treat anaphylaxis, and glucose tablets to treat low blood sugar. What do these rescue medications have in common?
First, they all work very quickly. In fact, they can work in seconds. This leads to commonality number two – they save lives, and do so quickly. Third, they can be administered either directly by the patient or by someone else who knows how to use them. The public health success story of these types of interventions is that the technologies are available even when a health care provider is not. That is the point. The reasoning behind CPR, for example, is that a sudden cardiac event is not likely to happen in the convenience of a doctor’s office. Since it is more likely to happen at home or at work, it’s a good idea to equip people in those environments with information on which to act and tools for doing so. It is all about changing the existing environment to improve survivability. Rescue medications follow this same logic.
It is within this context I will now make my point – does it not make sense that we would want to provide patients who may be at risk of a breathing emergency a rescue medication? This is how we present the idea of naloxone to patients who may be at risk. If an asthmatic is recommended a rescue inhaler for breathing emergencies, why not recommend to an opioid patient a rescue nasal spray for breathing emergencies as well? Context like this can help the conversation feel less invasive. Let the patient know that some cases of respiratory distress from opioids are not due to intentional misuse, and accidents can certainly happen. That said, there are too many families across the country who could relay the message that they never thought it would happen to them.
Rescue Inhaler – check.
EpiPen – check.
Naloxone – check.
Seatbelt – check.
Smoke Alarm – check.
Sunscreen – check.
It’s all about safety first.