Opioid overdoses, particularly those involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, take thousands of lives every year in the U.S. Narcan is a lifesaving medication designed to counteract the effects of opioid overdoses quickly. Having widespread access to Narcan could reduce the number of accidental overdose deaths in the country.
In this article, we’ll explore what Narcan is, how it works, how to use it, and how you can get it to protect people you love who use opioids, whether through a prescription or those dealing with an opioid use disorder.
What Is Narcan And How Does It Save Lives?
Narcan was created in 2013 by Opiant Pharmaceuticals, which is now a part of Emergent Biosolutions. It is the commercial name for the nasal spray naloxone.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The fast-acting effects of naloxone can save the lives of people who would have otherwise slowly suffocated as their respiratory and nervous systems shut down. It brings someone back to consciousness and allows them to breathe again.
Opioid agonists attach to and activate your brain’s opioid receptors, resulting in the full opioid effect (feeling “high” and suffering the side effects). Opioid antagonists such as naloxone attach to the same receptors but do not activate them. Instead, they block them, which results in the lifesaving effects of Narcan.
Naloxone was patented in the 60s and approved for opioid overdoses since the 70s, but Narcan was the first FDA-approved and user-friendly nasal naloxone spray.
How Do You Administer Narcan to Someone?
If you are sure someone is suffering from an opioid overdose because you know they take opioids (legal or otherwise) and show signs of an overdose (bluish or grayish lips and slow, shallow breathing), administering Narcan is an easy process that takes only a few brief steps.
Here’s how to administer Narcan:
- Take Narcan out of the box by peeling back the tab. Do not take out the device until it’s time to use and don’t test it before administering. Each Narcan device has a single dose, and you’ll be wasting it by testing it.
- Hold the Narcan with your thumb on the bottom of the plunger and your index and middle fingers on either side of the nozzle.
- Before administering, tilt the person’s head and support the back of their neck.
- To administer it, gently insert the tip of the nuzzle into their nostril until your index and middle fingers are in contact with their nose. Press the plunger to give them a dose of Narcan. You do not need to administer it into both nostrils.
- Call 911.
- While waiting for emergency services, position them on their side. This is a safe recovery position. It prevents choking in case of vomit.
- Watch closely for 2 to 3 minutes, the time Narcan takes to take effect. If their breathing doesn’t normalize, repeat the steps and give them another dose (you’ll need another device).
- Keep in mind that Narcan wears off after 30 to 90 minutes, and the overdose effects may return. All the more reason to get emergency services involved and inform them that you administered naloxone.
There’s no limit to the number of doses someone can receive, and you can safely administer Narcan even if it’s past its expiration date. Give them as many doses as they need until emergency services arrive. Giving them more than they need will not harm them.
Also, you may want to discuss with your loved one’s medic the appropriate doses to keep around, but remember that an overdose is an extreme event that should never be repeated if they survive it. It should be a wake-up to get help for opioid abuse.
How to Get Narcan for Free?
Narcan is not accessible in most states; two doses can cost about $140. Narcan is only available for free in three states: Ohio, Delaware, and Iowa. The pandemic exacerbated drug abuse as a public health issue, leading to increased overdose deaths, with opioids being the most common drug. To reduce overdose deaths, states are finding new ways to get Narcan to those who need it.
These are just a few of the ways you can get Narcan for free:
- You can order it online and have it mailed for free in Ohio. Click here for more information.
- In Delaware, you can purchase Narcan without a prescription at participating pharmacies. Click here for a list of pharmacies. Alternatively, you can have it mailed for free if you can’t afford it. Click here for more information.
- In Iowa, you’ll need to go through an online consultation before receiving Narcan for free. Click here for more information.
- In Las Vegas, NV, Narcan is free and provided at vending machines in 3 locations. You must sign up for a syringe exchange program and get one free Narcan dose monthly.
Inform yourself about how to acquire Narcan near your location. Some insurance plans, including Medicaid, may cover Naloxone.
Treatment Options for Opioid Addiction
Narcan is an excellent lifesaving resource, but it is an extreme measure taken as a last resort. If you or a loved one are struggling with opioid use to the point where Narcan becomes a necessary precaution, it may be time to start exploring treatment options, such as:
- Inpatient or residential treatment: Inpatient treatment involves staying at a rehab facility for several days, weeks, or months. Care will always be available to you, providing the maximum possible structure for your recovery.
- Outpatient treatment: A less intense treatment that you or your loved one may need to go through after a period of inpatient treatment. The premise is similar to inpatient programs, but you can have a job, go to school and spend nights at home while attending behavioral therapy and other treatment forms in the available time.
- Partial hospitalization programs: A middle ground between outpatient and inpatient programs. You spend your nights in the facility but may be able to spend some time out in the evening and during weekends.
The road to sobriety is long and may be challenging, but it will build the foundation for lifelong health that will improve your and your loved ones’ lives. Please contact us today for help and learn more about the best treatment program for your needs.