BOSTON (AP) -- A milestone has been reached in a 6-year-old state program that makes available a drug that reverses overdoses from heroin and other opioids, Massachusetts officials said Monday.
The Naxalone distribution program has stopped 2,000 overdoses since 2007, according to Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz.
Nalaxone, also known as Narcan, is a nasal spray that blocks the effects of heroin and other powerful painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, codeine and methadone.
Under the state program, Nalaxone kits are distributed free to opioid users and to family members and friends. The kits are available in 15 communities with high overdose rates including Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, Fall River, Holyoke, Hyannis, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, Northampton, Provincetown, Quincy, Springfield and Worcester.
The program also offers education and referrals for addiction treatment.
"Not only are we saving lives across the Commonwealth, we are also providing resources to help individuals access treatment and long-term supports to help them combat their addictions," Polanowicz said.
The drug has been routinely used by ambulance crews and emergency rooms in the U.S. for decades. But in the past few years, public health officials across the nation have been distributing it free to addicts and their loved ones, as well as to some police and firefighters.
A recent survey by Harm Reduction Coalition, a national group that works to reduce the consequences of drug use, estimated that such giveaways had saved more than 10,000 lives since the first program was started in 1996 in Chicago.