According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 50,000 people overdosed on opioids in 2019. The issue is considered a severe public health crisis, even being called anepidemic by some.
Many efforts have been made to reduce rates of addiction and overdose related to opioid use. Narcan is one of them. Read on to learn the definition of Narcan, what is in Narcan, what does Narcan do and the top benefits of this life-saving medication.
What is Narcan?
The simplest definition of Narcan is that, it is the brand name for the substance naloxone in the nasal-spray form. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it is used to reverse the effects of opioids and can be used to save someone’s life if used in the event of an overdose.
Opioids are a class of drugs that includes heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone and more. These substances are called opioids because they bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, resulting in feelings of pleasure and relaxation and blocking sensations of pain.
Opioids are extremely addictive, and as an addiction develops, so does tolerance. As the body requires increasing amounts of a drug to experience the same high over time, an opioid habit that goes untreated will inevitably lead to overdose.
What is in Narcan that makes it work?
Narcan, or naloxone is the substance that is given to reverse opioid overdose. Naloxone is effective because it both blocks displaced illicit drugs from receptors in the brain and reverses respiratory depression. Respiratory depression is a failure of the lungs to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, which will lead to death if emergency medical care does not intervene.
What are the benefits of using Narcan?
The main benefit of Narcan is it’s potential to save lives. However, there are other perks to widespread distribution and use of this important substance.
Easy to use: Narcan is a nasal spray approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. In the event of a drug-related medical emergency, many life-saving measures can only be performed by trained professionals. Narcan can be administered by friends, family, neighbors and others. It requires no assembly and no needle to be used.
Easy to access: Narcan is widely available and government entities are working to ensure that those who would benefit from it’s use have it readily available. You can obtain Narcan from a local pharmacy or though community programs.
No negative effects: According to a study published in Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety, there are no significant adverse side effects of using Narcan. In fact, it’s always a safe bet to use Narcan since the substance does not have any effects on those who do not have opioids in his or her system.
Low risk: Using Narcan poses a miniscule risk to the person in danger of death from overdose. A clinical study in the Journal of Toxicology found that the likelihood of harm occurring due to a reaction to Narcan is much lower than the risk of overdose should naloxone not be given.
It can be used multiple times: Relapse rates among opioid users are notable, and it’s not uncommon for a person struggling with opioid use disorder to require Narcan more than once. Not only can naloxone be used several times over a lifetime, it can also be administered more than once on a specific occasion.
When should I use Narcan?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists the following signs of an opioid overdose. When you suspect an overdose and notice these signs, it’s imminent that you administer naloxone:
- loss of consciousness;
- slowed or shallow breathing;
- slowed heart rate;
- being unable to speak;
- small pupils;
- limp legs and arms;
- purple fingernails and lips.
If you suspect an overdose, it’s always a safe bet to administer Narcan.
How can I get Narcan?
While some laws differ by state, in most areas you can get Narcan from a local pharmacy even without a prescription. Other community-based programs may offer Narcan for free. If you or someone you know struggles with an opioid addiction, it’s a safe measure to ensure that you have quick access to naloxone. Visit this resource finder to see how to obtain Narcan near you.
While Narcan can work quickly to reverse an opioid overdose, it doesn’t work indefinitely. Always call 911 in the event of an overdose.
If you’ve struggled with opioid use disorder, it’s time to get help. Narcan can save your life in an emergency, but prevent emergencies is what you’re really after. Rehab After Work can help you break the chains of addiction so you can live the life you’ve wanted. Get in touch today.