A Guide to Naloxone/Narcan
Naloxone is a medication that quickly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Known as an “opioid antagonist,” naloxone binds to the opioid receptors. When this happens, it blocks and reverses the effects that other opioids create for 20 to 30 minutes.
In order for this medication to have the desired effect, it must be administered when drug users begin to show signs that they are experiencing an overdose. The effects that naloxone causes do not last, so it’s imperative that you get emergency medical attention for the person after you administer naloxone because the person’s life could still be in danger.
What Are Opioids?
What Are the Signs of an Opioid Overdose?
The signs of an opioid overdose include the following:
- You cannot wake the person up.
- Vomiting or gurgling sounds coming from the person.
- The person cannot speak.
- Fingernails are either purple or blue.
- Limpness in the body.
- Pale or clammy face.
- Breathing slows down or stops.
There were 49,860 opioid-related deaths in 2019, so naloxone is an advantageous medication that keeps the person alive until first responders arrive. The only drug that naloxone will work against is an opioid drug, so people should only receive it if they have opioids in their system. Naloxone is also not the right choice if you’re in the middle of an opioid addiction. A better option is for you to obtain treatment at Granite Recovery Centers.
Who Should Use Naloxone?
The best candidates for naloxone include the following:
- People who have been abstaining from opioid use for a long period of time
- People who take extended-release opioid medications
- Those who just received medical attention after opioid intoxication or poisoning
- Those who are receiving rotating opioid medication regimens
- Individuals who are taking large doses of opioids for the management of chronic pain
Uses for Naloxone
After experiencing an opioid overdose, naloxone or Narcan immediately reverses the effects of an opioid overdose by blocking the effects that the opioids create. As a result, you can begin breathing normally again in as little as two to three minutes. This is the case even if your breathing has stopped entirely. If the opioid used was fentanyl, it may be necessary to administer more than one dose of naloxone because fentanyl is an extremely strong opioid.
How Do You Administer Naloxone?
Naloxone comes in pre-filled, nasal sprays that you spray into people’s nose the moment you realize that they are experiencing an overdose. Naloxone also comes in pre-filled devices that you inject into the outer thigh. After you have done this, your responsibilities do not end there. You must remain with the person until first responders have a chance to show up and take over. Naloxone may also be administered after surgery. If the surgery causes a minor opioid depression, a small dose will be enough to combat it.
Naloxone as Treatment for Substance Addictions
Naloxone is a medication that must only be used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. If you or a loved one is addicted to opioids, you will not receive naloxone during your treatment. Treatment for opioid use disorder requires intensive therapy, individual and group counseling, and support from the staff and the other clients in the rehab center. Therefore, if you or a loved one needs help overcoming an addiction to opioids, get it at Granite Recovery Centers today.
Who Can Administer Naloxone?
Hospital staff, first responders and emergency medical technicians may administer naloxone. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved this medication for the purpose of reversing opioid overdoses, and many states have also approved it for dispensation by pharmacies. If you are willing to have naloxone on hand so that you can administer it to your loved one or someone else, you will need to learn how to use it correctly. In most cases, the injectable form will come in a vial that you will need to inject with a syringe. You may also decide to administer naloxone into the person’s vein or muscle.
You have the option of using the needle-free version of naloxone. This is the spray that was mentioned above and is extremely easy to use. The person must lie on his or her back so that you can place the device into a nostril and spray. It doesn’t require that you receive formal training. According to a 2019 study, the devices that the FDA approved for opioid overdoses may be superior to the nasal devices used to treat overdoses.
If your family member has a problem with opioid drugs, you are a candidate to have naloxone on hand in case of an overdose. You may need to carry it with you, and you must tell your friends where you keep it in the event that they will be in the presence of your loved one when he or she experiences an opioid overdose. Whether you have naloxone or not, you still must call 9-1-1 if you suspect an opioid overdose. You can obtain training on how to administer naloxone from your pharmacist or another healthcare provider.
Naloxone Side Effects
Naloxone has side effects as well, and these include the following:
- Slight fever
- Stomach pain
- Body aches
Severe Side Effects
Naloxone also causes severe side effects, and these can include the following:
- Loss of consciousness
- Irregular heartbeat
The importance of notifying emergency medical personnel after administering naloxone is paramount. If you administer naloxone to a loved one, this person may have the excessive need to take opioids again. This is especially the case if your loved one is addicted to opioids.
Naloxone will only remain in the body for about 60 minutes, but other opioids may be in the body for as long as 12 hours. Therefore, the naloxone may wear off long before the other opioids do. If you take more opioids after receiving naloxone, you will be at risk of experiencing another overdose.
Other Drugs Naloxone Can Counteract
As was mentioned above, 49,860 people died due to opioid overdoses in 2019, but researchers found that, in more than 33% of opioid-related deaths, there was a witness present. If these bystanders had naloxone or Narcan, they would have been able to prevent these deaths. Everyone has the ability to obtain naloxone, learn how to use it and carry it with them in case they happen to be present at a potential overdose situation. If the overdose is due to something other than opioids, naloxone will not hurt the person.
Who Should Carry Naloxone?
If a family member or a friend has been diagnosed with opioid use disorder, the medical community recommends that you carry naloxone. Keep it in a safe place at your home. Several other people need to carry naloxone as well. If your loved one’s doctor prescribed an opioid pain medication that is equal to or greater than 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day, he or she must carry naloxone. If someone is taking benzodiazepines and opioids at the same time, this person will need to carry naloxone as well. Lastly, if you are taking heroin or another illicit opioid drug, you must carry naloxone. If you fall into the categories described above, it will be impossible for you to administer naloxone to yourself. You will want to let your friends and family know that you are carrying naloxone or Narcan so that they can prepare to administer it to you, should it become necessary.
Someone with allergies may carry an epinephrine auto-injector that is known as the “EpiPen.” The EpiPen treats very serious allergic reactions. Naloxone is similar to that. It allows you to save yourself if you are at a high risk of experiencing an overdose due to opioids. You can obtain naloxone in all of the 50 states in the union.
Drugs Naloxone Can Counteract
Naloxone or Narcan can reverse the effects of several drugs, including the following:
You Can Obtain Naloxone From Your Doctor
If you are taking a high-dose, prescription opioid, ask your physician to prescribe naloxone as well. However, you may be able to obtain naloxone without a prescription at most pharmacies. Also, naloxone programs in your community may have naloxone for you along with any syringe programs that exist in your community. Because of programs such as these, deaths due to opioids have started to slow down. Remember that large doses of Narcan can cause opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Early symptoms of opioid withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Runny nose
- Increased tearing
- Muscle aches
Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
Opioid withdrawal also has later symptoms that include the following:
- Dilated pupils
- Abnormal cramping
If you are physically dependent on opioids, you may experience the withdrawal symptoms listed above immediately after being administered the naloxone. You don’t necessarily need to worry about these symptoms because they will only be uncomfortable and not hazardous to your health. If you do have a bad reaction to naloxone, you can be assured that it isn’t going to be as bad as overdosing on opioids. When you arrive at the emergency room, the staff will be prepared to relieve your symptoms.
In the event that the withdrawal symptoms are too much for you to handle, we have a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program at Granite Recovery Centers. We use medications that were approved by the FDA to help relieve you of your dependence on opioids. Some of the medications that have been approved include methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol. These medications will help you tolerate the withdrawal symptoms more comfortably.
When you have a substance use disorder, you’re not living your healthiest life. For example, you may not have been eating the most nutritious foods, and you may have lost a lot of weight. Needless to say, you may not have been exercising during this time either. We introduce you to holistic treatment that will bring you back to health. This is highly important at this time because you will need as much strength as you can muster to overcome your addiction to substances.
Our therapists will also take this time to determine if there are any underlying conditions that led you to substance use. The dual-diagnosis treatment program is just one example. The medical community is aware of the fact that many people experiencing substance use disorders are also experiencing mental health disorders. Therefore, it’s important to determine whether or not you have a mental illness because it is best to treat these disorders together.
Myths Associated With MAT
Some people avoid treatment with MAT because they believe that they will not really become drug-free if they allow this approach to be used on them. However, drugs are a necessary part of your treatment during the detox program. The drugs we administer will ensure that you do not suffer an overdose. These drugs are only dangerous if you aren’t administering them in the correct manner, but you can rest assured that our staff has been trained in how to administer medications in the safest way possible.
Continuation of Treatment
MAT is only the beginning. After you leave the detox program, you will have the option of continuing your treatment in the residential treatment program. Then, we will treat your psychological addiction with evidence-based therapies. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and trauma therapy. You will have the opportunity to engage in these therapies in individual sessions so that you can address any matters that you would like to be private in one-on-one counseling sessions with your therapist.
Since the opioid crisis became known as a “crisis,” there have been a few promising statistics. For example, physicians aren’t writing as many opioid prescriptions as they were in the beginning. In addition, fewer people are misusing prescriptions that they obtained legally. Most encouraging is the fact that a smaller number of people are being diagnosed with opioid use disorder, and there are about 50% fewer people trying heroin for the first time.
Give us a call today at Granite Recovery Centers if you need help with your opioid addiction.