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US Health Department Official Urges Tennesseans to Buy Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug

A top Trump administration official responsible for combating the nation's opioid crisis has two messages for Tennessee families whose loved ones are struggling with addiction.

Recovery is hard, but possible. In the meantime, stock up on Naloxone, the opioid overdose-reversal drug.

Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, serves as senior adviser on opioid policy. Giroir was in Nashville on Tuesday for a meeting about neonatal abstinence syndrome at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, along with first lady Melania Trump.

"It's the most important health care crisis of our time," said Giroir, a pediatric critical care physician.

Naloxone, which is often referred to by its brand name, Narcan, is a prescription medication that can be used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It commonly comes in the form of a nasal spray. It's already carried by many first responders, such as EMT's and police.

In 2016, Tennessee lawmakers approved a measure that allows the state's pharmacies to dispense Narcan without a prescription.

In April, the U.S. surgeon general recommended that family, friends and those who are personally at risk for an opioid overdose, keep the drug on hand.

The number of Tennesseans who died from drug overdoses jumped 12 percent from 2015 to 2016, largely due to growing use of dangerous synthetic opioids.

There were at least 1,631 Tennesseans who died in 2016 — up from 1,451 in 2015, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

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