Apr 2, 2018
In the United States, an average of 115 people die every day from an opioid overdose. As the epidemic gains even more steam, this ACLS algorithm – designed to teach individuals how to treat an opioid overdose – is more important now than ever before.
The Opioid-Associated Life-Threatening Emergency Algorithm was first introduced when the American Heart Association (AHA) released its 2015 AHA Guidelines Update for CPR and ECC. As the opioid crisis continues to spiral out of control, the significance of being familiar with this particular algorithm grows along with it.
As is the case with all life-threatening emergencies, being able to quickly recognize the cause of the problem is crucial. There are several signs and symptoms that point to a possible opioid overdose, including:
- Pinpoint pupils
- Track marks or other signs of injection drug use
- Shallow, agonal or absent breathing; very low respiratory rate
- Decreased muscle tone
- Fingernails and lips turning blue
The quicker you identify the cause, the quicker you can take appropriate action and begin proper treatment by working through the algorithm.
In addition to following standard first aid and BLS protocols, a staple of the Opioid-Associated Life-Threatening Emergency Algorithm is the administration of naloxone. Naloxone is a potent opioid receptor antagonist used to rapidly reverse the central nervous system and respiratory depression in a patient experiencing an opioid-associated resuscitative emergency. In such situations, administering naloxone should occur as soon as it is available.
If the patient shows no response to the naloxone, immediately continue CPR and use an AED once available.
For a more detailed, step-by-step description of the Opioid-Associated Life-Threatening Emergency Algorithm, see below: