While prolonged opioid addiction is a terrible scourge in our country, one of the worst aspects of the opioid epidemic is how easy it is to overdose on these drugs. With the introduction of Chinese-made fentanyl into the illicit American market, it’s easier to overdose on opioids than ever before. However, the effects of opioid overdose can be reversed with the aid of a drug that was developed to save the lives of people who have fallen into the trap of heavy opioid use.
This drug is commonly known as Narcan, and it serves as a ray of hope for overdose victims and their loved ones. Instead of having to stand idly by or rely on dangerous anti-overdose drugs like adrenochrome, people who are confronted with the terrifying situation of dealing with an overdose can now use a safe and effective drug to save a life.
What Is Narcan?
Narcan is a brand name of naloxone, a drug that was developed to stop the physiological process of an overdose in the human body. If naloxone is administered in time, it reverses or blocks the effects of opioids.
An overdose is dangerous because opioids bind to the nerve cells that control respiration. Naloxone chemically displaces these opioid molecules, allowing the victim of overdose to quickly begin breathing again. The drug is a significant improvement on previous forms of anti-overdose drugs, which mainly sent a jolt designed to shock the body out of failed respiration or cardiac arrest.
Naloxone is administered in a variety of different ways, and it may be possible for you to store this drug in your home or place of work in case of emergency. If this course of action isn’t possible, most hospitals and addiction recovery clinics keep various forms of naloxone on hand at all times.
What to Do in the Event of an Overdose
Before you learn how to use drugs like Narcan, it’s important to understand that there are other actions you should take if you or another person ingests a toxic dose of opioids. While naloxone provides a lifeline for people who have ingested dangerous levels of opioids, administering this drug isn’t the only thing that you should do in this critical situation.
Call for Help
Before you do anything else, it’s important to call 911. That way, emergency services will be alerted to the situation and will start heading toward your location. If you need to leave the person on their own while you make the call, you’ll need to put them in recovery position first. This position is achieved when the person’s arm is crossed under their neck and one leg is placed over the other with the knee bent. When an overdosing person is put in this position, it is assured that they will not choke.
After you call 911, you’ll need to administer naloxone if you have it. If you don’t have any naloxone on hand, you’ll need to wait for EMTs to arrive on the scene. Since there are no known effects of naloxone if a person isn’t overdosing, there’s no reason to be cautious when using this substance. If the person isn’t having an overdose, naloxone won’t have any effect.
Help the Person Breathe
In many cases, opioid overdose causes trouble with respiration. If the person is having trouble breathing, you can conduct rescue breathing. Pinch the person’s nostrils closed, and breathe into their mouth once every five seconds until their breathing normalizes.
Once you’ve administered naloxone and helped the person start breathing again, there’s not much more you can do until EMTs arrive. Make sure that the person stays in the recovery position, and comfort them as much as possible. If the person is conscious, they may be confused or in a panic. They may also want to use drugs. It’s your job to restrain and pacify them until medical professionals arrive.
After paramedics have arrived and the person’s condition has stabilized, it’s time to address the issues that caused this situation to occur in the first place. Do everything you can to keep the person from using drugs, and suggest that it might be time to detox under the careful supervision of a qualified inpatient addiction treatment center.
How Is Naloxone Applied?
Naloxone comes in a number of different forms, and each is administered differently. These different administration techniques have various benefits and detractors. You should be aware of each administration route before you decide which type of naloxone to have on hand in case of emergencies. Here is some basic information on the different forms that naloxone may take:
Traditional hypodermic injection remains one of the most popular routes of administration for naloxone. In most cases, naloxone injections are applied to the thigh or arm, and they can be administered through clothing. In some cases, naloxone will come in small packages that you’ll need to pour into a hypodermic syringe, but it’s much more common to encounter injectable naloxone in packages that fit directly into syringes. Single-use syringes with naloxone already inserted are also available.
Before stocking up on injectable naloxone, talk with your pharmacist about the recommended dose. In most cases, naloxone is injected in a dose of 0.4mg/ml. With this amount, a second dose is sometimes needed.
If you plan to administer naloxone with a hypodermic syringe, it’s important to receive professional injection training first. Injecting lifesaving drugs like naloxone isn’t as easy as it may seem. Adequate training will make sure that you don’t harm the overdosing person.
If you want to inject naloxone easily and safely, you should definitely learn about the benefits of autoinjection. A pharmaceutical brand called Evzio was approved to make an autoinjector with naloxone in 2014. This marked the first time that an autoinjector had been approved outside of clinical settings. This autoinjector is much easier to use than a traditional hypodermic needle, and it looks like a small box with instructions and an LED indicator on the side. It administers a single, calculated dose of naloxone with a retractable needle, and it doesn’t require any assembly or technical knowledge to be used.
The autoinjector can be used through clothes, and all you need to do to administer a dose of Evzio is hold the end of the box next to the overdosing person and press the button. This handy overdose tool even comes equipped with a recorded voice that gives you instructions from the moment that you begin administration. This voice will let you know when it’s time to remove the autoinjector.
Narcan, which is one of the most prominent manufacturers of naloxone, makes a nasal spray that delivers the drug through the nasal membranes. This nasal spray is approved by the FDA, and it provides one of the easiest ways to apply naloxone.
To use this spray, simply insert the nozzle of the Narcan administrator into one of the overdosing person’s nostrils. Then, press down on the applicator with your thumb to administer this lifesaving drug. Each package of Narcan comes with two pre-filled applicators, but you shouldn’t need to use more than one in the case of an overdose. You only need to apply Narcan to one nostril.
While this administration method isn’t as popular as the others, Luer-lock makes a nasal atomizer device that contains naloxone. This device has a number of different parts, and the nosepiece is usually only available at pharmacies with a prescription. In some cases, however, it is possible to buy the nosepiece from medical supply companies.
This nasal atomizer is relatively complicated, and you probably won’t know how to use it unless you’re a trained medical professional. Since the Narcan nasal spray and the Evzio autoinjector are much easier to use, they are the administration methods that people without medical training should choose.
Who Is Qualified to Administer Naloxone in an Emergency?
Qualification requirements depend on the type of naloxone that is being administered. In general, hypodermic needles and atomizers are too complicated to be used by anyone except for a paramedic. However, autoinjectors and nasal sprays are easy enough for anyone to use without any medical training.
As you decide which type of naloxone that you should keep on hand, keep in mind that the laws in your state may have an impact on your ability to possess naloxone. Some states have made it illegal to possess naloxone unless you are a certified medical professional, and other states may only allow possession of certain forms of naloxone. In your state, it may be possible to purchase the drug at a pharmacy without a prescription, but you should check the Prescription Drug Abuse Policy System website to learn about your state’s laws before you proceed.
Does This Anti-overdose Drug Have Any Side-Effects?
Naloxone does not appear to have any effect on people who are not overdosing on opioids. If you accidentally administer naloxone when you aren’t overdosing, you should have nothing to worry about. In the case of people who are overdosing, the only direct effect of naloxone is the unbinding of opioid molecules from the nervous system.
When naloxone forcibly removes opioids from the system of an overdosing person, they almost immediately enter into the withdrawal process. While opioid withdrawals are uncomfortable at best, they can also be life-threatening. Even if you administer naloxone yourself in a person’s home environment, it’s still important to seek out medical attention immediately to ensure that the person is safely guided through the detoxification process.
How Much Does Narcan Cost?
The cost to buy a dose of naloxone depends on your state of residence and your insurance plan. With the correct insurance, a dose of Narcan nasal spray currently costs about $20 to $40. This cost is extraordinarily low when compared with what can happen without the drug.
Before you purchase Narcan or a similar naloxone product, you should get in touch with your insurance company to see if they cover the cost. If your insurance doesn’t cover the cost of naloxone, you can get in touch with your local pharmacy to learn retail prices for this drug. You should also keep in mind that the manufacturers of Evzio offer a cost-assistance program to help you with your purchase.
Where Do You Get This Drug?
In most states, you can purchase naloxone without a prescription. To learn about the process of purchasing naloxone in your home state, you should call a local pharmacy and speak with a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician. Most pharmacies stock naloxone, and even if they can’t offer this anti-overdose drug without a prescription, they can help you learn about the process you’ll need to follow to be approved for one.
What Are the Next Steps?
After you’ve successfully administered naloxone and the overdosing person is in the recovery process, it can seem like your work is over. However, both you and the overdosing person have some important decisions to make that will determine their health and well-being going forward. An overdose is, by far, the clearest sign that a person needs help. You should make sure that he or she enrolls in an inpatient addiction clinic as quickly as possible.
While hospitals provide services to help in the detoxification process, addiction clinics offer the most comprehensive services available when it comes to getting and staying clean. Whatever you do, it’s important to make sure that the person knows that you are there to help with whatever they may need to overcome their addiction.