Opioids are prescription drugs used to treat moderate to severe pain. The most prescribed opioids are oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and tramadol. Heroin, an illegal drug, also falls in the opioid category. Some opioids are made from the opium plant, and others are synthetic (man-made).
These narcotics are quite popular with doctors due to their time-release format. They can give pain relief for up to 12 hours after the initial dose, which makes the user feel relaxed. But they have certain side effects too. These include drowsiness, mental fog, nausea, and constipation. Unfortunately, since opioids give people a “high,” people tend to misuse them.
Many patients take them even after the prescription ends. This leads to opioid dependence and addiction. Overdose of opioids can also cause slowed breathing, which can lead to death. Opioid addiction and overdoses are serious public health problems in the United States. So much so that the abuse of opioids has been declared a national emergency in the U.S.
Opioid-related issues are more prevalent in some U.S. states than the others. One of these states is Maine. It was among the top ten states with the highest number of deaths caused by opioid overdose in 2017. The death toll reached an all-time high, with 417 individuals dying due to opioid overdose. The figure rose even further in 2018 and 2019.
To tackle this issue, the Maine state government has released a mobile app called OD-ME. The app was a result of the joint efforts of the Maine Office of Behavioral Health and the University of Maine. It contains naloxone administration protocol for both intranasal and intramuscular application. The government hopes the app will reduce the number of deaths caused by opioid overdose.
The Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and the Virtual Environment and Multimodal Interaction Lab at UMaine developed the app.
The app isn’t meant as a stand-in for formal naloxone training. According to Alexander Rezk, a research assistant at the Smith Center. He said it was “low-barrier, easy-to-use emergency response and educational tool for those who want to be prepared.”
Issues like opioid overdose pose a serious threat to public health and safety in Maine. Hopefully, such measures will help other states deal with these issues.