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Nasal Spray Antidote To Opiate Overdose To Be Widely Available On WSU Campus

Drug overdoses, mostly from opiates, are the leading cause of accidental death in America. But there is an antidote, and it may soon be much more widely available on the Washington State University campus. 

For someone who overdoses on heroin or a prescription painkiller, a quick shot of naloxone could make the difference between life and death. In the past, this has meant an actual injection, which can be hard to administer for someone who isn’t trained, as well as carrying risks of blood-borne diseases.

But fit a little mister onto the syringe, and it creates an instant nose spray version. Professor John White in WSU’s College of Pharmacy is leading a study that will train 150 students to use the spray as emergency treatment.

“What you’re able to do is revive them prior to the EMTs arriving,” White said. “And in doing so, one, you can prevent deaths, and, in some cases, you may be preventing brain damage.”

White says the nasal spray is much easier and safer for a layperson to use than a needle, which allows it to be deployed more widely. Training could begin as soon as this fall.

One problem is that only a fraction of the drug dose gets absorbed when it’s taken through the nose. But White may have an answer for that, too. He’s pursuing FDA approval for a new formulation of the drug designed to be a nasal mist.

“Our preliminary studies suggest that it’s absorbed 10 times more efficiently,” he said.

White says his team added absorption enhancers — substances already found in consumer products like shampoo and toothpaste to increase potency.

Opioid overdose is not a particular scourge at WSU, White says, but rather a widespread problem all over the country.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.
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