Although opiate overdoses are skyrocketing in the U.S., many people still don’t know about naloxone, which reverses the dangerous effects of taking high amounts of painkillers or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. Friends, family members, and drug users themselves can learn how to use it in the event of an overdose, and it can save a life.
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an easy-to-use, lifesaving antidote to overdose from heroin or other opioids. Used in hospitals for decades, the medication has no abuse potential and can be administered with basic training. It can be administered intramuscularly (with a syringe) or intranasally (spraying with an atomizer up the nose), and you can learn how to give the medicine to a friend or family member to use in case of emergency.
According to NaloxoneInfo.org:
A safe medicine with no abuse potential, naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it ejects heroin and other opioids from receptors in the brain, reversing the respiratory depression caused by an overdose of these drugs. Naloxone has been used for decades in medical settings, and is included in the World Health Organizations’ List of Essential Medications. Side effects beyond opioid withdrawal are rare, and the medication works within two to eight minutes to restore breathing – returning the victim to consciousness.
Read the site’s FAQ page for more details about naloxone here.
Learn about some of the most common myths about naloxone’s use and implications here.
In 2012, the White House expressed support for broadening access to naloxone, noting that the odds of surviving an overdose depend on how quickly the victim receives treatment.
Naloxone distribution programs have trained more than 53,000 people to use naloxone kits and report over 10,000 overdose reversals since 1996, although the number of actual kits distributed and lives saved is probably much higher since people get refills, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Distributing naloxone can save one life for every 227 naloxone kits distributed, according to this study. For every 20% of heroin addicts in a population treated with the drug, about 6.5% of overdose deaths could be prevented, resulting in 2,000 lives saved in a population of 200,000 heroin users, the study determined.
To find a naloxone distribution program near you, visit StopOverdose.com.
Learn more about what to do in the event of an opiate overdose here, or watch the video below to learn more about naloxone administration. Or contact The D.O.P.E. Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce fatal overdose deaths by providing overdose prevention education and naloxone to drug users and their loved ones.