By now most of us know someone who has struggled with substance use. Unfortunately, most of us also know someone who has died as a result of drug use.
Even if you don’t know anyone personally, odds are good that you have a friend or colleague who has lost someone to an overdose.
The opioid crisis continues to be in the headlines, however the life saving medication that can quite literally stop an opioid overdose in its tracks is not getting enough coverage.
What is naloxone and how does it work?
Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. Narcan is the brand name, naloxone is the generic name. The medication works by “knocking” the opioids out of opioid receptors in the brain. All opioids are central nervous system depressants. When taken in excess, they can slow or stop breathing. When naloxone is administered to someone experiencing an opioid induced overdose, it can reverse the effects.
Naloxone only works for overdoses involving opioids. Examples of opioids include heroin, OxyContin, fentanyl, Vicodin and morphine. Although naloxone is available in many different forms, probably the easiest to administer is the Narcan nasal spray.
One of the greatest benefits of naloxone is that it is not harmful to someone if they have not taken opioids. Additionally, it is not addictive, and you don’t have to worry about giving too much.
Overdoses in the US
Drug overdoses have been trending upward at an alarming rate. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, rates rose from over 70,000 in 2019 to a shocking 106,000 IN 2021. Of those 106,000 deaths, more than 80,000 were attributable to opioids, with the vast majority of those involving fentanyl.
If first responders have naloxone, why would I need it?
During a life-threatening situation, minutes matter. Through legislation changes and grass roots efforts, getting access to naloxone and Narcan is easier than ever. Having naloxone available is sort of like being trained in CPR—you hope you never actually need to use your training, but the training could save a life.
People in high-risk situations should absolutely have naloxone on hand; if you or someone you live with is actively using, if you work in a business where there may be drug use or if you have prescription opioids in your home.
If you administer naloxone, you should still call 911, ASAP.
How to get Narcan
One of the simplest ways is just to go to a CVS or Walgreens. For people with insurance, the co-pay will usually be between $0-$100.
If you live in Texas, Naloxone exchange by Script Health is an online naloxone specific pharmacy that operates in Texas. Additionally, you can reach out to the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance.
If you are outside of Texas, you can use the National Harm Reduction Coalition Naloxone Finder.
Lives are worth saving
Some people believe that the distribution of naloxone is condoning drug use. However, saving a life should not be controversial. People who die from overdose will never have an opportunity to make positive changes. Deaths in this manner simply bring more pain and more trauma to friends, family and colleagues.
For more information on overdose prevention, please visit our safety first page.
Support if you need it
If you are in Texas and you need support, Substance Use Therapy is here. Whether you want to work towards abstaining, moderation, or safer practices, you are welcome here. No judgment, just support.
About the Author:
Kimberly May, LPC-S, LMFT is the founder of Substance Use Therapy in Austin, TX. Kimberly works with individuals, couples and families whose lives have been impacted by substance use. By utilizing a harm reduction framework, Kimberly works effectively with people in any stage of use. In addition to substance use, she works with other issues such as anger, gambling, anxiety and grief. Contact today to schedule a no-charge, 30 minute consultation.