With Demi Lovato's apparent heroin overdose this week and the opioid epidemic that has flooded the nation in recent years, Narcan is a term that keeps making headlines. But what exactly is it? And what does it matter?
For starters, Narcan is a brand name for an opioid overdose remedy called naloxone.
And naloxone is the antagonist that can completely or partially reverse an opioid overdose, even if someone has reached the point of severe respiratory problems.
Often the word narcan is used when naloxone is really meant. It's like someone asking for a tissue, when what they really want is a handkerchief. It's the same, but one is a brand. In these cases Narcan and Kleenex are the brand names. Evzio is another brand that makes Naxolon.
In another example, some people ask for a Motrin, which is the brand name of the drug ibuprofen. Make sense?
How does the medicine work?
During an opioid overdose, the airway can be shut down, rendering the victim unconscious and / or coma. Naloxone essentially expels the opioid and occupies its place in the opioid receptors of the brain.
How can it be administered?
Although a physician can administer the drug by an injection, it is most commonly used in the form of a nasal spray so that anyone can administer the life-saving drug.
A dose may be given to someone who has taken an overdose by injecting it once into a nostril.
The person does not need to breathe to administer the medicine.
According to Narcan.com a patient may respond to the drug within two to three minutes.
Who can buy it?
Most states require a prescription.
In those states where prescriptions are not necessary, pharmacists can provide individual prescriptions directly to the residents. This is called direct delivery.
Click here to see if your status allows a direct tax.
First responders are also able to buy in large quantities to keep the life-saving medicine in stock.
How many cans can be used?
If the person stops responding after the initial dose, naloxone can be administered alternately in the nostrils every three minutes.
If the person comes back and then stops responding, more doses of naloxone can be given.
It should be noted, however, that emergency care is still required and that the person administering naloxone should immediately call 91
Are there side effects?
Because the drug essentially removes the opioid immediately from the receptors of the brain, people can almost immediately begin to experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including:
Is there anything naloxone should not be taken?
According to his website, the antidote should not be used if anyone is allergic to naloxone hydrochloride or the following ingredients:
- Benzalkonium chloride (which is a preservative)
- Disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetate (which is a stabilizer)
- Sodium chloride
- Hydrochloric acid (to adjust the pH)
- Purified water
So this medicine is the answer on the opioid crisis?
Well, that's a pretty loaded question. Critics claim that regular use of naloxone facilitates the dysfunction.
Accepting the use of naloxone means admitting that we have a problem that can not be overcome in any other way. It really is a philosophical argument.
The physician Dr. Frank McGeorge has compared it to the fire hoses: as in any case, fires will happen.
"We do not want fires, but we still need hoses," McGeorge said.
It seems that opiate overdoses are a problem we can not overcome just by stopping the opiate flow, the doctor added.
Yet, it sounds like naloxone is too good in some cases to be true. Correct?
Not so fast. It is definitely not perfect medicine.
Remember that if you give it to someone, "You can make (a person) very sick very quickly," said McGeorge. "It's not a generally fabulous thing, but it can pull (someone) out of the jaws of death, and it's still better than death."
Besides, Naloxone is a very safe drug, all in all. If given to someone who has not taken any opiates, it will have no effect.
And the costs are very low, especially compared to the cost of a paramedic. It's definitely cheaper than that, said McGeorge.
Click here to learn more about Narcan.
Graham Media Group 2018