As the opioid crisis continues to devastate communities across the country, communities are looking for new solutions to stop the rising death toll. One of the most important tools in that fight is naloxone, also known as Narcan. This life-saving drug is capable of reversing an overdose from opioids like heroin, fentanyl, and other drugs.
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However, while access to naloxone has grown over time, many people still don’t know that it exists. As a result, thousands of people have died after overdosing on opioids. But that’s changing as more first responders and others begin carrying naloxone with them at all times. Read on to learn everything you should know about Narcan.
What is Narcan?
Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, a fast-acting drug that reverses an opioid overdose. When someone overdoses on opioids like heroin or fentanyl, their breathing slows or stops, putting them at risk of death. Naloxone works by blocking the receptors in the brain that opioids latch onto and reversing their effects, allowing the person to breathe again.
First responders have carried naloxone as a treatment for opioid overdoses since 1996, and many police departments are now equipping their officers with the drug as well. Pharmacies are also stocking the drug, and many states have laws that let friends and family members of opioid users get prescriptions for naloxone.
How To Use Narcan
If you or someone you know has overdosed on opioids, you can save their life with Narcan by following these steps:
- Make sure the scene is safe: If you are with someone who has overdosed, you should get them to a safe place as soon as possible. Do not try to revive them in a public place where you might be putting yourself and others at risk.
- Administer the Narcan: You should inject the Narcan into the muscle, like the thighs or upper arms, to get the antidote into the bloodstream.
- Call 911: You should call 911 immediately to get help for the overdose victim.
- Watch for signs of revival: After you administer the Narcan, you should watch the person for signs of revival. These signs can include coughing or movement, especially after a minute or two of giving the antidote.
Why is Narcan so Important?
Overdoses are a leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, more than 70,000 people died of overdoses in 2017 alone, a number that is likely to increase in 2018 as the opioid crisis continues to spread. Naloxone can reverse these overdoses and prevent deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that first responders and law enforcement officers carry naloxone along with other standard medical equipment like EpiPens and oxygen tanks. Many states have expanded access to naloxone by law, letting family members of opioid users and people who engage with people at risk for such overdoses carry the antidote. You can also get naloxone at many pharmacies without a prescription.
Side Effects of Narcan
Like any drug, naloxone comes with potential side effects. Some of the most common include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and restlessness. Naloxone only lasts for 30 to 90 minutes in the body, so if someone has overdosed on opioids, they can overdose again after it wears off.
To avoid that, you can give the person an opioid overdose reversal kit, which comes with a dose of naloxone along with the opioid antagonist drug buprenorphine. The kit can be used multiple times, so friends and family of opioid users can keep it on hand in case of an overdose.
Where Can You Get Narcan?
You can get Narcan at many pharmacies without a prescription, and you might be able to get it for free. Many government health programs, including Medicaid, cover naloxone, and law enforcement might also have access to discounted Narcan kits. If you are concerned about cost, there are many organizations that offer naloxone for free.
Some pharmacies might also offer discounts on the drug. If you know someone addicted to opioids, you can also get a naloxone kit for them. The kits come with instructions for how to use the drug as well as a card that lets paramedics know someone in the house is carrying naloxone. Naloxone has a shelf life of one year, so you should check the expiration date and replace the kits as needed.
The opioid epidemic has been devastating for communities across the United States. However, one positive outcome of this crisis has been increased access to naloxone, also known as Narcan. This drug can reverse an opioid overdose, saving thousands of lives every year. Like any drug, naloxone comes with potential side effects.
However, these are generally mild and last only a short time. If you are worried about the effects of Narcan, you can always get it from a pharmacy without a prescription. If you are in a situation where someone is overdosing on opioids, knowing how to use Narcan could save a life.
Asheville Recovery Center
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent unhealthy behaviors and help those who are already struggling. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or mental health, it is important to get treatment. At Asheville Recovery Center treatment specialists utilize a 12-step program and practice holistic rehabilitation.
Services at the center include:
Partial Hospitalization Program – At Asheville Recovery Center we offer a partial hospitalization program for clients who need post-residential treatment as well as for clients who need primary treatment but are unable to enroll in inpatient programs. Our PHP track offers a variety of therapeutic services and benefits to individuals in early recovery from substance addiction.
Outpatient Rehabilitation – During intensive outpatient treatment (IOP), clients live at home or in a sober living residence while completing an addiction treatment program. IOP is a place where clients can process their experiences in twelve-step fellowships and support one another in those individual journeys.
Addiction is difficult to overcome alone. If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call and speak with an addiction expert today.