Naloxone is a drug that is used most often to counteract an opioid overdose. Commonly referred to by one of its brand names, Narcan, it is a medication that works by blocking the effects of opioids. Naloxone is safe for use because it only works when opioids are present in the body. If you take Naloxone without having used opioids, you won’t experience a reaction. Let’s take a closer look at how Naloxone is obtained, how it is used, and its effects on opioid substances.
Are Prescriptions Needed for Naloxone?
Naloxone is available for purchase without a prescription in all but four states: Maine, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Hawaii. In the remaining 46 states, anyone can go in to a pharmacy and request Naloxone directly from a pharmacist. With the rise of opioid addiction, state governments decided that Naloxone should be readily accessible to those with opioid dependence, their family members, and first responders. If you reside in a state that requires a prescription for Naloxone, your primary care physician can write one for you.
How is Naloxone Used?
Do you know the signs of an opioid overdose? Naloxone may be needed if you see someone struggling with these symptoms:
- Breathing Difficulties
- Slow Heartbeat
- Low Blood Pressure
Here are the steps to respond to an opioid overdose:
- Call 9-1-1
- Administer CPR for at least 30 seconds
- Give Naloxone
- Wait three minutes before giving a second dose
- Stay with the person until help arrives
What are the possible side effects of Naloxone use?
The most common side effect of Naloxone use is opioid withdrawl. Because Naloxone causes the opioid substance to leave the receptors in the brain, a person may develop withdrawl symptoms quickly. These symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, a runny nose, and irritability. Infrequently, serious side effects like abnormal heart rhythms, seizures, and pulmonary edema may occur.
It’s not possible to develop a tolerance to Naloxone, so it can be used in multiple instances for the same person. It does not make you feel high, nor can you become dependent on it. Before taking this medication in a non-emergency, tell your doctor about any of the following conditions:
- Allergies to Naloxone or any of its ingredients
- Heart Conditions
- Substance Addiction or Dependence
- Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
While Naloxone certainly has the potential for harmful side effects, the benefits of using this drug to combat opioid overdoses far outweighs the risks. As the incidence of opioid abuse and dependency continues to rise, it’s crucial to identify and implement all viable solutions to help address the problem and to save as many lives as possible. Naloxone is a powerful tool in society’s arsenal that may be able to stem the tide of opioid addiction by providing a second chance at a better life.