ATLANTA — Dr. Nora Volkow has heard a frightening scenario play out around the country. People are administering naloxone to synthetic opioid drug users who have overdosed. But the antidote doesn’t work well. So they give another dose. And it’s only after multiple doses — four, five, even six times — that drug users finally come to their senses.

Naloxone is the only widely available drug to reverse opioid overdoses. But anecdotal reports of its limitations against synthetic opioids are on the rise. Spurred by that public health threat — as well as a booming commercial market for the antidote — drug companies, researchers, and health officials are eagerly eyeing the development of new treatments to augment the use of naloxone or, in some cases, potentially replace it.

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