Keywords: heroin overdose, observation period, bystander naloxone (PubMed Search)
Recently a review paper was published regarding the duration of observation in heroin overdose patients who received naloxone.
It made several conclusions regarding heroin overdose:
It should be pointed out that this is a review paper of limited number of articles with variable quality. Additionally, the clinical history of “heroin use” may be unreliable as fentanyl and novel synthetic opioids are also sold as “heroin.” Providers should exercise appropriate clinical judgement when caring for these patients.
The paper attempted to answer following questions
Review conclusion (8 articles): Patients were safe to release if they had normal mentation and vital signs. Mortality from recurrent heroin toxicity was 0.13% - 0.49% within 24 to 48 hours after naloxone administration.
Review conclusion (5 articles): Wide range of observation period is reported. One study showed that 1-hour observation is sufficient when patients have normal ambulation, normal vital signs and GCS of 15 after 1-hour observation.
Review conclusion (15 articles): Rate of successful reversal ranged from 83% to 100% in the literature. Bystander and first responder naloxone administration is associated with minimum risk outside of mild opioid withdrawal symptoms.
The conclusion of this review paper only applies to heroin intoxication, a short-acting opioid. However, it can be difficult to discern clinically what type of opioid is causing the clinical toxicity as “heroin” may actually be other opioids such as fentanyl or other novel synthetic opioids (e.g. U-47700).