The number of drug overdose deaths increased significantly during the pandemic, from more than 71,000 in 2019 to more than 107,000 in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The number dipped slightly in 2022.)
Naloxone has, however, helped save people. There was a 14% decrease in opioid-overdose mortality in states that enacted laws that made it easier for laypeople to access naloxone and protected people reporting overdoses from being arrested, according to a 2018 study in the Addictive Behaviors journal.
Chakravarthy, whose hospital is in northern Orange county, has in recent years, like many other medical providers across the country, seen an increase in fentanyl use, which is as much as 50 times more potent than heroin.
He saw one man in his early 40s who was hospitalized dozens of times because of overdoses, withdrawal, skin infections and ulcers from injecting heroin. Chakravarthy estimates he was revived by naloxone, which can be administered quickly into an overdose victim’s nostrils, at least four times.
He once came to the hospital with blood squirting from an injection site in his arm.
Chakravarthy says he told him: “Listen, you’re going to lose your life and lose your arm; let’s get you on some medicine.”
That was two years ago. Chakravarthy said the patient started taking buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid dependence, and went to appointments at a clinic and is “doing really well”.
That would not have been possible if he had not been revived with naloxone.