NARCAN, which is a brand-name version of naloxone, is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdoses. It’s an opioid antagonist, which is just a drug that binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids.
Though it comes in a different form, it’s one of the active ingredients in Suboxone.
Basically, it stops the effects of any opioid, including Fentanyl. When someone overdoses on an opioid, their breathing slows, and can even stop. NARCAN gets them breathing again.
It’s a safe and effective medication that can literally be a lifesaver for someone experiencing an overdose.
The opioid crisis has hit communities all over the world, and as a result, NARCAN has emerged as a crucial tool in the fight against this ongoing epidemic. If you or someone you know regularly uses or abuses opioids, having NARCAN around in case of an overdose can potentially save a life.
How does NARCAN work?
When a person overdoses on opioids, the substances can slow down or stop their breathing, leading to brain damage or death. NARCAN can reverse these effects by binding to the same receptors in the brain that opioids attach to.
By doing this, NARCAN can effectively kick the opioids off these receptors and block them from reattaching, helping the person to breathe again.
However, NARCAN isn’t a substitute for emergency medical care — sometimes it needs to be administered more than once, and other measures might have to be taken to save the person.
While NARCAN can temporarily reverse an overdose, you need to call 911 immediately to ensure they get proper care.
Fentanyl and the Opioid Crisis
One of the biggest reasons that we need drugs like NARCAN now more than ever is that the opioid crisis has become much more deadly than ever — that’s thanks to Fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine or oxycodone, the drug most responsible for the opioid crisis that began in the 1990s.
Fentanyl can be found in various forms, including powder, pills, and patches. The potency and prevalence of this drug make having access to NARCAN more critical than ever.
It’s currently one of the biggest causes of opioid overdose deaths for a number of reasons.
First, Fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, often without the user’s knowledge, significantly increasing the risk of overdose.
Dealers and manufacturers might have added Fentanyl to another drug to increase its potency or to sell it as though it was another drug to make more money. They can also add it to an inactive powder, liquid, or pill and then lie and say it’s another drug, like Percocet or heroin.
Because the drug is so potent, only a very small amount is necessary to give users what they want.
However, these people are often manufacturing or mixing the drug by hand or without any sort of anti-contamination procedures — they’re rarely in a sterile lab with safety precautions.
This means Fentanyl can easily make its way into other nearby drugs that are being cut, stored, or manufactured in the same place.
It’s not uncommon for someone to buy a drug like cocaine or heroin that was cut in the same room as Fentanyl and ended up with a small amount of Fentanyl in it. Because Fentanyl is so potent, all it takes is a small amount to kill someone, which it regularly does.
Second, Fentanyl can kill in extremely small doses, so when it’s being added to another drug, accidentally or on purpose, it’s very easy for manufacturers and dealers to accidentally put too much in.
On top of that, they might not have mixed the Fentanyl evenly, resulting in “hot spots”, which are just concentrated clumps of the drug that weren’t mixed evenly throughout the powder or pill it’s in.
Users might believe that they’re only doing a small amount when in reality the amount of powder or the pill they’re taking contains a much higher dose than they can handle. This can result in overdose and death.
Thankfully, NARCAN can reverse the effects of Fentanyl quickly.
Does NARCAN Work on Fentanyl?
NARCAN can reverse a fentanyl overdose just as it can with other opioids. However, because fentanyl is so potent, it may take multiple doses of NARCAN to be effective.
The key is to administer NARCAN as soon as possible and then seek immediate medical attention. Remember, NARCAN is a temporary measure, and further medical treatment is always necessary.
Forms of NARCAN
NARCAN is available in many different forms, but the most common is NARCAN nasal spray. It has recently been approved for over-the-counter treatment, which means that you will soon be able to purchase it without a prescription.
NARCAN nasal spray is administered quickly and easily, making it the preferred method for many. It does not require any assembly and can be given by anyone, even without medical training.
The spray is inserted into the person’s nose, and a dose of NARCAN is released. It’s designed for easy use in stressful situations, making it an accessible tool in the fight against opioid overdoses.
NARCAN also comes as a solution that can be injected under the skin or into the muscle. However, this form is much less common these days because it requires more effort and time to administer, which is the last thing you need in an emergency situation.
How to Use NARCAN: A Step-by-Step Guide
Knowing how to use NARCAN could help you save a life. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide:
- Identify an overdose: Look for signs such as unresponsiveness, slow or no breathing, blue or gray skin, and small pupils
- Call 911: Always call for emergency medical help immediately if you suspect an overdose
- Administer NARCAN: If available, use the NARCAN nasal spray by inserting it into the person’s nose and pressing the plunger
- Perform rescue breathing: If trained, perform rescue breathing or chest compressions until help arrives
- Stay with the person: Never leave an overdosing person alone
Keep NARCAN in Your Home if You or Someone You Love has Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)
NARCAN is not a cure for opioid addiction, but it is a powerful tool in the fight against the opioid crisis. If you or someone you love suffers from OUD, keeping NARCAN in your home and vehicle could save a life.
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