(New Scientist) In 1992 Tracey Helton, a long-time heroin addict, shot up. Only this time was different: she had been clean for a month and her body couldn’t handle the opiate surge. The overdose would have killed her, she says, had she not been brought back from the dead by a drug that researchers call miraculous, but that the public largely hasn’t heard of. With overdose deaths on the rise, campaigners are calling for it to be supplied more widely as a potential lifesaver.

Naloxone, sold under various trade names including Narcan, could prove to be a game changer in stemming an alarming rise in deaths from prescription opiates and heroin in the US and the UK. Naloxone has long been stocked in ambulances and emergency rooms in both countries, but making it available to those who often are first on the scene of an overdose – the police and the drug-taker’s friends and family – is proving controversial. Some argue having such a “safety net” could make drug users more reckless, and some efforts to pass laws to distribute naloxone more widely have stalled.

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