Naloxone, commonly called by the brand name Narcan, is a medication that can be used to quickly counteract an opioid overdose. The active ingredient in Narcan is naloxone, which binds to opioid receptors, reversing and blocking the effects of other opioids. Basically, Narcan is an opioid blocker. If a person’s breathing has slowed or ceased due to an opioid overdose, naloxone can immediately restore normal breathing. As you can see, it’s crucial to use Narcan as soon as possible after an opioid overdose.
However, naloxone has no impact on people who don’t have traces of opioids in their system, and it’s not a therapy for opioid use disorder. For this reason, Narcan should only be administered to anybody who displays symptoms of an opioid overdose or when an overdose is probable. If you give Narcan to someone who doesn’t need it, it won’t have any effect. People can carry Narcan in case of an opioid overdose, much like how individuals with allergic responses carry epinephrine injectors.
If this is your first time hearing about this drug, here are a few important things you should know about Narcan:
Narcan Can Be Used In Two Ways
Narcan is available in two FDA-approved forms: injection and nasal spray. The fastest and most effective way is through injection; however, only medical experts can properly administer Narcan using a syringe. For this reason, the nasal spray device was designed so it’d be simple to use by non-medical professionals in an emergency anytime, anywhere.
Furthermore, it’s important to have knowledge on how and when to administer Narcan, regardless of the dose type, because it’s impossible to predict drug overdoses.
You Can Purchase Narcan Without A Prescription
You may obtain Narcan at your local pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription. Canada has previously passed laws allowing everyone to obtain Narcan from a pharmacy. Rather than requiring a prescription for each individual in need of naloxone, pharmacists can now proactively provide the medication to anyone who may be experiencing or witnessing an opioid overdose.
Furthermore, changing naloxone from a prescription drug to a non-prescription drug has allowed emergency responders to deliver naloxone without waiting for a prescription to be issued for each person in overdose.
Too Much Narcan Will Not Hurt You
Usually, each Narcan solution contains a four-milligram dose. However, Narcan has no maximum suggested dosage. And you can’t harm an individual by giving them more Narcan than they require.
When you encounter someone who’s overdosed on opioids, administer Narcan in a two- to three-minute interval until they resume regular breathing. Even after dialing the emergency hotline, continue to give Narcan as required until emergency medical personnel arrive. If the person gets into the same situation again after some time, it might be advisable to consider looking into substance treatment for adults as a solution.
Narcan Will Stay In Your Body For A While
Though Narcan can immediately reverse an opioid overdose within two to three minutes, the effectiveness of naloxone after being administered lasts anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. The length of time it remains in your body may depend on factors such as age, liver condition, and weight.
However, since certain opioids may remain in the bloodstream for up to 12 hours, Narcan will wear off first before the drug. Therefore, when the medication’s level in the body becomes too low, some patients may require further doses of Narcan.
Using Narcan May Cause Side Effects
During the Narcan treatment, some individuals may develop mild to severe side effects. Mild side effects include:
- Lack of moisture or irritation in the nose
- Blocked nasal passages
- Muscle aches
- High blood pressure
- Muscle contractions
- Dry skin
Normally, mild side effects should be temporary and may be easily handled. Serious side effects of using Narcan consist of allergic reactions and severe opioid withdrawal symptoms. This may occur especially on individuals who are heavily dependent on opioids. Nonetheless, Narcan hasn’t been linked to any long-term negative effects.
Using Narcan During Pregnancy Has Its Costs
When taken during pregnancy, it’s unclear how safe Narcan is. When pregnant females were administered naloxone, no damage to the fetus was shown in a study on animals. Animal studies, on the other hand, don’t usually predict what would happen in humans. Yet the use of Narcan to save the life of a pregnant woman who has overdosed on opioids is recommended by health care professionals.
Narcan, on the other hand, may trigger opiate withdrawal symptoms in her unborn kid. The child may be stressed by these symptoms. Any pregnant woman who’s given Narcan should visit her doctor as soon as possible. This’ll allow the doctor to keep track of both the mother and her unborn child’s health.
As you can see, Narcan is an extensively available and quick-acting opioid overdose treatment. After getting a dose of the medication, a person who has been unconscious due to an overdose generally wakes up within two to three minutes.
Remember that Narcan isn’t a substitute to medical treatment. Although the individual will almost certainly require additional medical treatment and addiction therapy, Narcan can be a life-saving step to recovery.