Naloxone, aka. Narcan: What is It, and Why Might I Need It?

Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan among others, is a medication used to block the effects of opioids. Opioids are a narcotic analgesic that effect the central nervous system along with the respiratory system. During an overdose, a person can stop breathing.

By administering naloxone during an overdose, it can greatly increase the chance of survival, by counter-acting the effects of the opioid drug. Naloxone can be administered in several ways; the most common method for a citizen would be a single dose through an aerosol injected in the nasal cavity. (Additional dosages are sometimes needed) Additionally, in some cases naloxone is provided in an injection through a syringe/needle.

There are three main types of opioids; Prescription opioids, Fentanyl and Heroin.

Common types of prescription opioids are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine and methadone. Prescription opioids are a controlled substance but can be prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain but can also have serious risks and side effects.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. It is many times more powerful than other opioids and is approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain1. Illegally made and distributed fentanyl has been on the rise in several states. Due to the strength and potency, Fentanyl is often illegally manufactured in clandestine labs, where there is no quality control. A micro amount of unregulated fentanyl can be lethal in accidental exposures.

Heroin is the last type of opioid to be discussed. Heroin is produced illegally and is a common “street” drug, with no medicinal value. Nearly 40 people die every day from an overdose death involving heroin in the United States.

Where do you get it? - Due to the rise in opioid overdoses, Naloxone has become easier to acquire through state legislation. A doctor can prescribe Naloxone, it can be purchased through many of your local pharmacies for approximately $20-$100 without a prescription, or local entities and organizations can be trained to administer and distribute through the California Department of Health Care Services, at little to No cost.

Why might I need it? – A person who may be having a medical emergency due to an opioid overdose may have only a few precious moments to spare before it’s too late. First responders may not be able to get to the scene fast enough, but a single dose of naloxone may help in buying that individual more time for further treatment.

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