All patients on long-term opioid treatment should be co-prescribed the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, even if they are not considered to be at high risk of an opioid overdose, according to the director of the University of New Mexico Pain Center.
Patients on long-term opioids should be co-prescribed naloxone because the risk of opioid overdose can change quickly, says Joanna Katzman, M.D. “You never know when someone will go from low risk to medium risk to high risk, especially in the chronic pain population. A person can be on a stable dose of opiates and then develop a condition that depresses breathing, such as pneumonia, sleep apnea or a fever. Because opiates also depress breathing, suddenly they are at risk.” Or a person may go to the hospital and receive a higher dose of opiates from a physician than what they are already on, increasing their risk of an overdose, Dr. Katzman noted.