The Food and Drug Administration Thursday approved Narcan nasal spray for sale to stop or reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.

Quick use of Narcan can counter overdose effects such as shallow or stopped breathing with two minutes. The nasal spray version of naloxone hydrochloride is touted as easier to administer for first responders, primary caregivers and even family members of opioid abusers. A spray alternative to injected naloxone also eliminates the danger of a contaminated needlestick, FDA officials said.

 “Drug overdose deaths, driven largely by prescription drug overdoses, are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States — surpassing motor vehicle crashes,” according to an FDA statement.

The American Hospital Association praised the move. “The administration has been very active in addressing this epidemic, and we appreciate their support of providers and first responders as they work to save lives,” said Evelyn Knolle, AHA’s senior associate director of policy. “Ultimately, resolving the epidemic will require the collaboration and commitment of a wide cross-section of stakeholders, working together in their communities.”

 “The American Medical Association applauds the FDA for approving the nasal spray version of naloxone,” said Patrice Harris, M.D., chair-elect of the American Medical Association. “The FDA’s swift action will widely increase accessibility to this medication that will help to prevent more opioid-related overdoses and save more lives.”

To illustrate this, Harris tells the story of a conversation she had recently with a local firefighter in the stands at an Atlanta Falcons football game.

 “In the course of conversation, our jobs came up and we talked about naloxone,” she said. “The firefighter told me that there were a great number of rescues they’ve been able to accomplish with the injected form of naloxone. The encounter really brought it home for me. Think of it in terms of CPR; if a first responder comes upon an overdose victim who is not breathing, they can use naloxone right away, just as they would use CPR. There’s so much less opportunity to save a life if you must wait until later.”