As the number of people dying from heroin and prescription opioid overdose continues to climb, a number of states across the U.S. are scrambling to make Narcan more available to the public. Narcan is the brand name for the synthetic opioid antagonist used to reverse the effects of heroin and narcotic prescription painkillers. It has been used successfully to reverse drug overdose of heroin and other narcotic opioids for years in emergency rooms. However, with the number of opioid-related drug overdose deaths escalating annually, the need for access to Narcan has become more critical. Studies show at least 44,000 drug overdose deaths occur annually in the United States, and the largest portion of those fatalities are directly linked to the use of heroin and prescription opioids. Narcan is now available in pharmacies over-the-counter in 14 States.
Narcan is the brand name for Naloxone, a synthetic opioid antagonist with the ability to reverse opioid prescription and heroin drug overdose. The drug is available as a sterile solution for intravenous, intramuscular, subcutaneous administration or as a nasal spray. It works within two minutes when given intravenously and has a five minute response time if administered subcutaneously or injected directly into a muscle. Response time of the Narcan nasal spray however, is almost immediate. In most instances, the individual suffering the drug overs can become conscious within one to five minutes. As such, this form of administration has had the most success in saving lives.
Based on how much of the drug is administered, the effects can last between 30 minutes to an hour. In some instances, multiple doses may be necessary to counter the potency of heroin or the prescription medication that was consumed. Drugs like Opioids use receptors in the brain to produce the pain relief or euphoric effects. When Narcan is administered it bind to these same mu receptors to achieve the reversal action that restores consciousness. In the last four years in the state of Boston alone, the Narcan inhaler has successfully reversed over a thousand opioid overdose episodes.
So far, there has been no evidence that the use of Narcan produces any tolerance or cause physical or psychological dependence. Withdrawal symptoms may occur when Narcan is used in individuals with an opioid addiction. The duration and severity of these however, varies based on how much of the drug is administered and the extent of the drug overdose.
Currently, Narcan is available and is dispensed from all 7,800 CVS stores if a prescription is presented to the pharmacy. However, according to State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, a recent decision to expand the availability of Narcan resulted in empowering a number of CVS pharmacy boards to enable pharmacists to dispense this life-saving drug without the need for a prescription. So far, non-prescription purchas of Narcan is available in fourteen states including:
There are several other pharmacy chains and some independent pharmacies that have also taken steps to provide non-prescription access to Narcan in other parts of the country. This enables some drug users with concerns about drug overdose, whether for themselves or their loved ones, to always have the drug available to them in an emergency situation. There has been reports in which these first responders have been able to save someone from an overdose on more than one occasion on a given day.
Since every minute counts when it comes to reversing a heroin or opioid prescription drug overdose, this plan to make the drug accessible without the need for a prescription is expected to save many more lives. Also, training on the various forms of administration of Narcan has been expanding. So far, thousands of individuals including emergency medical personnel, law enforcement and members of the public that will now have easier access to Narcan will also have the know how to administer this drug.
If you or someone you love is addicted to heroin or other opioid drugs, contact a drug treatment center got help. Speak to an addiction specialist who can help you start on the path to recovery.
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