WHAT IS NALOXONE?
In an ideal world, when we suffer from a substance abuse disorder, we go through detoxification, rehabilitation, and stay in recovery for the rest of our lives. Relapse? Oh no, not us. But is that the reality? You may swear you are never going to have a relapse, but not only may you “fall off the wagon,” the chances of an overdose increase after you’ve gone through a treatment program. People who relapse often think they can take the same amount of opioids after detoxification as they did before going into treatment. This can be a deadly mistake and is why those in recovery are especially prone to overdose during a relapse.
Maybe you’re still using and haven’t hit rock-bottom yet. You’re on a downward spiral, using more and more opioids, and maybe you’ve already had an overdose or two and barely survived. Either way, you may want to consider carrying a Naloxone prescription that can be used to save your life.
WHAT DO YOU USE IT FOR?
Naloxone, or Narcan, is a drug used to treat opioid overdose. Historically, it’s only been administered by medical personnel in a clinic or hospital setting and only after someone overdosing was brought to an emergency room. But by dispensing Narcan as a preventative measure, anyone who experiences an overdose can have it on hand for immediate use. This means much quicker administration of the medication that can save many people’s lives.
From 2010 to 2016, opioid overdoses resulting in death doubled from 21,089 to 42,249. This is attributed in particular to the prescription drug Fentanyl, which is often used on its own or mixed with heroin and other prescription opioids. As a result, our healthcare providers realized something had to be done to save lives.
HOW DO YOU TAKE IT?
Narcan was once taken exclusively by needle injection so it would take effect quickly. However, laypeople now have the option of administering the overdose drug as a nasal inhaler as well as by injection. To make it easier to administer outside of a clinical setting, you can now take it via a nasal spray. Taking any medication by administering it through a mucous membrane also yields quicker effects.
WHEN SHOULD I ADMINISTER NALOXONE?
Someone may be experiencing an opioid overdose if they show these symptoms:
- Breathing rate lower than 10 respirations per minute
- Blue lips or fingertips
- Erratic breathing
- A gurgling with breathing, known as the “death rattle”
- A slowed heart rate or cessation altogether
- The person involved is non-responsive, even when you do a “sternal rub”
A sternal rub is a medical test where you aggressively rub your fist along the chest or sternum to provoke a response. Lack of response confirms that the person is unresponsive. At that point, you need to activate 911 emergency services then administer naloxone. Once naloxone is administered either by injection and inhaler, it takes a few minutes to take effect.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Naloxone is not the cheapest medication you carry around and have on hand in case of an emergency. As of this writing, CVS pharmacy quotes a price range of approximately $95 without insurance coverage. The good news is you only need to carry one dose for emergencies. Think of it like an epinephrine pen that people who are allergic to bee stings carry with them in case of emergency (and those are even more expensive). Try to find coupons through various websites to get discount medication that can help you afford this drug that stops an overdose because it may save your life.
WHY SHOULD I HAVE IT?
Anyone who has a legitimate prescription for opioid medications such as morphine, oxycontin, Percocet, or Vicodin may accidentally take too much of these medications, so caregivers should have access to naloxone.
And that brings us to the bottom line for why you should have naloxone on hand: you are addicted to opioids and you may be having problems with finances and affording medications, but this is one that can save your life. A lot of people feel the stigma of asking for medications that can save them if they overdose, but your doctor should be there to help keep you healthy and alive. If they have any judgment about using Narcan, then you need to find a new doctor. However, most clinics can help you get the medication despite financial problems and a sliding-scale clinic can be especially helpful. Some offer medications for free for people who have low income. Ask them to help you.
Most people with a substance abuse problem are familiar with medications to help you through detoxification but often forget, or choose not to carry, a naloxone (Narcan) prescription that can save their lives. This medication can stop an overdose and counteract the effects of opioid medications whether legally prescribed or abused. You may have been through detox and rehabilitation and think that an overdose can’t happen to you or a loved one, but recovery is when someone is the most vulnerable to relapse and an overdose. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse disorder or struggling through recovery, Everlast Recovery Center can help. Our mission is to compassionately and ethically guide our brothers and sisters toward their dream of living a life of sobriety and prevent future relapses. Located in Riverside, California, we can support and reinforce a new, healthy lifestyle and clean living. Call us at 866-DETOX-25 today.