Baton Rouge, La. - Laypeople who come to the aid of an individual who has overdosed on heroin, morphine or other opioid drugs can now receive the lifesaving medication naloxone without having to get a direct prescription from a doctor.

Naloxone is an antidote medication that reverses an opioid overdose. Used by medical professionals for years, naloxone is the most effective way to counteract an overdose and save lives.

The State of Louisiana has issued a “standing order” for naloxone. This allows for participating pharmacists to dispense naloxone to laypeople including caregivers, family and friends of an opioid user. This standing order also includes directions on how to administer naloxone to someone who has overdosed.

“Opioid abuse is a concern as 80 percent of heroin users reported starting out misusing prescription opioids. By mid-year 2016, in both East Baton Rouge and Orleans Parishes, narcotic overdose deaths surpassed homicide deaths,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “As we continue to work to address the addiction problem, this standing order is one step we can take to help reduce the number of unnecessary deaths.”

The standing order is the result of legislation that made it legal for medical professionals to prescribe naloxone. Now, anyone can get naloxone from a participating pharmacy in case they need to assist someone who is overdosing. Those who receive naloxone will be provided education about how to recognize an overdose, how to store and administer the medication, and given information about emergency follow-up procedures.

Health care experts say that making naloxone widely available is an important tool in saving the lives of people who have overdosed on opioids.  For example, in Wilkes County, North Carolina, making naloxone easily available to laypeople has resulted in a decrease in overdose deaths by 42 percent and a decrease in drug-related hospital emergency department visits by 15 percent.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, signed the standing order. “This is an important step in our fight against the opioid epidemic,” Gee said. “By making this medication and education widely available, people who overdose can get the antidote quickly and administer it safely. This will save lives.”

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents. To learn more about LDH, visit www.ldh.la.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook