Narcan (Naloxone) has been used for decades by paramedics to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Over the last five years, police officers and firefighters have been using Narcan as a tool for overdose. Communities realize the full potential to save lives using Narcan. Therefore, the medication has also become more accessible to the general public. Research into its availability and uses of the drug show it significantly helps fight overdose deaths as the opioid epidemic rages.
How Narcan Fights Overdoses
Narcan is a prescription drug you can buy in many pharmacies depending on the state where you live.1
This medication can be administered through a traditional needle injection into a person’s thigh during a medical emergency, but only by a trained medical professional. Emergencies room doctors, for example, commonly use this method of treatment. A needle-free option is also available as a nasal spray. This option is administered into a patient’s nostril while he or she lays on their back.
Being Ready At Home To Fight Overdose Deaths
Like many places around the country, Arizona teens use heroin and other opioids more than ever before. The Arizona Department of Health Services reports a majority of opioid overdoses are happening at home. The most recent data records show a 74% increase in opioid overdoses from 2013 to 2017.2 Medical experts urge residents to have the medication on hand in case of an overdose.
By equipping households with this opioid antagonist, there is a potential to save many lives. There’s no chance a patient can become addicted to Narcan because it doesn’t have the ability for abuse. Also, it’s safe for kids and pregnant women. There are no adverse effects if administered to someone not overdosing on opioids.2
Understanding An Overdose
An opioid overdose kills a person by depressing their respiratory system. The patient also experiences a decreased level of consciousness, heart rate, and blood pressure, but the Narcan administration can reverse the episode.
Common signs of an opioid overdose
- The patient exhibits blue/pale skin, lips, or nails
- A very limp body that doesn’t respond to a stimulus
- Slow breathing or not breathing at all
- A choking, gurgling, or snoring sound coming from the patient
- Pinpoint pupils
Distribution Of Narcan/Naloxone for Overdose
The widespread distribution of Narcan is a key to saving lives and avoiding overdose deaths.
One pivotal study has shown opioid overdose death rates are between 27 and 46 percent lower in communities where overdose education and naloxone distribution (OEND) were implemented.3 In data between 2010 and 2014, there was a substantial increase of the overdose reversals, from 10,171 to 26,463. That means access to the medication and the administration of it saved thousands of lives.3
A Narcan distribution study in San Francisco reported an 89 percent survival rate from Narcan out of 399 overdoses.3 That means the medication saved the lives of 355 people.
In part, access to life-saving medication has been thanks to governmental agencies training and equipping staff like police and firefighters to administer the medication.
In 2017 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded more than $44 million in grants to equip local first responders with the overdose-reversing drugs. That same year, the Health Resources and Services Administration, HRSA, awarded $17.1 million to all 55 poison control centers’ efforts.5
In South Carolina during the 2020 holiday season, the South Carolina Opioid Emergency Response Team urged residents to maintain the opioid antidotes on hand in the event family or friends could be struggling with an opioid use disorder.
“The saving of precious lives with the administration of naloxone gives us a reason for hope, as it allows many to start on the path to treatment and recovery from opioid use disorder,” Sara Goldsby, Director of the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, wrote in a statement in December of 2020. 4
In April 2018, the Surgeon General outlined the importance of access to the medication5:
“I, Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service, VADM Jerome Adams, am emphasizing the importance of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone. For patients currently taking high doses of opioids as prescribed for pain, individuals misusing prescription opioids, individuals using illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, health care practitioners, family and friends of people who have an opioid use disorder, and community members who come into contact with people at risk for opioid overdose, knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life.”
Naloxone For Overdose Is One Of Many Steps
The use of naloxone for overdose is one of several steps in beating a substance use disorder. While the medication can save lives, people living under the influence and weight of an addiction to opioids need long-term treatment to find freedom from addiction.
Early education is another critical element in saving lives for people at risk of developing an opioid abuse disorder. For people during an addiction, treatment is vital.
At Silver Sands Recovery, we believe everyone is different in what they need to beat addiction. We specialize in heroin addiction, drug addiction, chronic relapse, opiate addiction, alcohol addiction. At Silver Sands Recovery, we will give men and women the tools needed to recover from addiction, not just survive an overdose. Contact us today!
About the author:
Lisa Waknin is the Founder and Director of Silver Sands Recovery, located in Prescott, Arizona. Lisa started Silver Sands Recovery after immersing herself in the addiction treatment world for several years to figure out what could be done differently to help her daughter and others like her to overcome addiction and stay sober. She believes in a hands-on treatment approach, which includes taking someone out of their environment, providing a 90-day program in a structured environment. During treatment, clients not only recover physically but also learn to live their life again. Lisa is a sought-after expert speaker for recovery support groups, charities, schools, communities, and companies wanting to educate themselves on the explosion of opiate and heroin abuse in our country and the best way to understand, treat, and beat it.