NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: A box of the overdose antidote Naloxone Hydrochloride sits on a counter at a Walgreens store on February 2, 2016 in New York City. Hundreds of Duane Reade and Walgreen Co. pharmacies will begin giving out the heroin antidote without a prescription across New York state as the heroin epidemic continues to spread. Getty/Spencer Platt

Kroger pharmacies in Kentucky is expected to begin selling emergency medication that combats overdoses to customers without the need of a prescription. According to Louisville Wave 3 News, the supermarket chain will allow customers to purchase naloxone in all of its 96 pharmacies throughout the state as a part of Kentucky’s drug overdose prevention efforts.

“Unfortunately, Kentucky ranks in the top five states with the highest overdose death rate according to the Centers for Disease Control. Kroger wants to help reverse this terrible statistic,” Calvin Kaufman, President of Kroger’s Louisville Division, said in a statement. “We want families dealing with addiction and families of patients on high doses of prescription opiates to have convenient access to naloxone and have the medication on hand in the event that they need it.”

Kroger’s administration worked with Bellevue Primary Care’s Dr. Jeremy Engel to create a method of distributing naloxone without needing a prescription.

Pharmacists from 80 Kroger’s received naloxone training with the help of Trish Freeman, RPh, PhD, President of Kentucky Pharmacists Association (KPhA) and clinical associate professor at University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.

“Naloxone is a lifesaving drug in the hands of those actively using opioids, including prescription opioids and heroin, and their loved ones,” Freeman said. “Kroger pharmacists are among the most accessible healthcare providers in many areas of Kentucky, and they were quick to take advantage of this specialized training. As opioid use, abuse, and overdoses continue to surge in Kentucky, by ensuring that all of their pharmacists have been trained to dispense naloxone, Kroger has shown that they are committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities they serve.”

A report conducted by the American Society of Addiction Medicine revealed 47,055 deaths were caused from drug overdoses in 2014. 18,893 of those deaths were related to opioid use and 10,574 were from heroin overdoses alone. In Kentucky, the drug related death toll climbed to more than 1,000 overdoses each year as of 2014, per Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy.

According to Kroger Pharmacy Director Rene Kendrick, selling naloxone without a prescription will “play an integral role in preparing and training Kentucky families for overdose situations.”

“Our pharmacy teams are proud to add naloxone without a prescription to our pharmacy services and to provide for the healthcare needs of all Kentucky families,” she said.

Read on to find out more about naloxone and its benefits.

What is naloxone? Naloxone is an injectable medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose caused by heroin, certain types of painkillers and other opioids including morphine, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, codeine, hydromorphone and buprenorphine. It also comes in nasal spray form.

How does it work? If administered soon enough, naloxone can block the effects from opioids. Overdoses caused by opioids are usually a result of slowed breathing that can lead to loss of breath completely. Depending on the severity of an overdose, those suffering may need more than one shot of naloxone, because it only lasts for about an hour.

Are there any side effects? Although naloxone is used to save lives, there are health related risks associated with the medication including chest pain, seizures or allergic reactions such as hives, trouble breathing and swelling in the face, lips and tongue. As naloxone withdraws the drugs from a person’s system, they may suffer from vomiting, body tremors and sweating. If administered the shot version of naloxone, people may experience pain and burning on the skin near the shot or in hands and feet.