Q&A with RCA Regarding Arkansas SB505
Perhaps from providing substance abuse services since the 1950’s, RCA is often asked to weigh in on public health practices regarding substance abuse treatment. As a nonprofit, we have a responsibility to remain neutral on legislative measures that would directly affect our practice. By the same token, RCA also has a responsibility to inform our community about best practices. Please read below for answers to common questions regarding Senate Bill 505, which would affect those struggling with substance use addiction across the state.
Carole S. Baxter, Executive Director
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist: it rapidly counteracts the effects of opioids in the body, preventing overdose. Naloxone is the generic name for Narcan®, the first opioid antagonist. There are many other brands. Naloxone is listed on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.
Is Naloxone Dangerous?
Naloxone quickly triggers withdraw symptoms that are expected with typical opioid withdraw, up to and including seizures. In all cases of overdose— whether intervened with Naloxone or otherwise— emergency services must be called. A full journal text on side effects can be found in Naloxone treatment in opioid addiction: the risks and benefits (2007).
Naloxone and other opioid antagonists have little to no effects if opioids are not present in the body. They have been determined to present no risk of dependence.
What Will the Senate Bill do if it Passes?
SB505 makes an amendment to the Naloxone Access Act in the Arkansas State Code. This amendment mandates that Naloxone be prescribed alongside opioid prescriptions (“co-prescribed”). The responsibility of offering counseling and consultation regarding opioid dependence and overdose is also imparted upon the prescribing doctor. The Arkansas State Medical Board and the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy would issue guidance, rules, and rule enforcements for practitioners across the state.
How will Services in Arkansas Change?
More Arkansans will have access to Naloxone. The state has distributed Naloxone for several years through special programs. This will be the first effort to co-prescribe Naloxone along with opioids, providing Naloxone to prescribed opioid users directly.
It is unclear what specific rules the practitioner licensing boards will enact to enforce the policies in SB505.
Is Naloxone Important for Treating Addiction?
In 2020, 401 Arkansans lost their lives due to a drug overdose. Naloxone is not sufficient alone to combat addiction. However, surviving a near-death experience may be the impetus for seeking treatment needed in managing recovery.
What should I do if I Encounter an Opioid Overdose?
Harmreduction.org lists the signs of an opioid overdose:
- very small pupils
- slow or shallow breathing
- an inability to speak
- faint heartbeat
- limp arms and legs
- pale skin
- purple lips and fingernails
If you have access to Naloxone, it may be given at a time you suspect someone is overdosing. A Naloxone pen can be dispensed in muscle, under skin, or through veins. Further instructions can be found at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s (SAMHSA) Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit.
If you do not have Naloxone or are not sure what type of overdose someone is experiencing, remember: Don’t Run. Call 911. First responders have access to an opioid antagonist, and Good Samaritans are protected in Arkansas by the Joshua Ashley-Pauley Act.