What Is Narcan and Why Is It Important?
Author: Justin Mckibben
By now, anyone who watches the news or uses social media has heard about Narcan. Some may be more familiar with the generic name, Naloxone. You may have even know another brand name Evizo. While Naloxone and Narcan are essentially the same, there are some aspects that make the Narcan brand nasal spray unique.
A lot is being said regarding the need for Naloxone and Narcan access given the current opiate epidemic in America. Many states are putting these useful drugs in the hands of law enforcement and other public service officials. Pharmacy companies are working to provide the much needed resource where ever possible while government officials work to make them available without a prescription. Meanwhile, others challenge the pharmaceutical companies who produce these products over rises in pricing. We want to tell you what Narcan is exactly and why it’s so important.
What is Narcan?
To be clear, Narcan is actually a brand name of Naloxone. Specifically, Narcan nasal spray is a unique formulation of Naloxone. So what is Naloxone?
Naloxone is the medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in the case of an overdose. The more generic version of Naloxone is commonly administered intravenously. When injected, it typically works to revive an individual who is suffering from an opiate overdose in about 2 minutes. When injected into the muscle, it may take up to 5 minutes.
Naloxone is a pure opioid antagonist, which works by reversing:
- Depression of the central nervous system
- Depression of the respiratory system
These are the most lethal effects of opioid use.
Narcan and Naloxone are generally known as opiate overdose antidotes. However, a common misconception is that they are a one-shot cure. The effects of Naloxone typically only last about half an hour to an hour. In some cases, especially with particularly powerful opiates, multiple doses of the medication are necessary. The medicine is intended to revive someone long enough to help them receive further medical treatment. Emergency medical service is always suggested in the event of an overdose.
FDA Approved Narcan Nasal Spray
Naloxone has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since back in 1971 for opioid overdose treatment. Yet Narcan was only FDA approved towards the end of 2015.
Narcan was around a long time before then, but it was not until late last year that the FDA finally decided to fast-track the approval of the Narcan nasal spray. This decision came due to both the mounting devastation being caused by the overdose outbreak in the nation, and because the Narcan nasal spray is noted to be easier and safer to use.
During an overdose, Narcan is sprayed into the nostril white the patient is on their back. This makes the medication so much easier to administer; no needles and no medical training. The drug is safe for both adults and children, and the process can be repeated if necessary. This form of the overdose antidote is so safe that there are even programs designed to teach kids how to use it.
Because of the nature of the drug it has virtually no risk of abuse or addiction, and even if someone takes more than recommended dosage, there is no Narcan or Naloxone overdose. Although exceedingly high doses can result in more severe opiate withdrawal symptoms.
Why It’s Important
The introduction of Narcan as a tool to fight the overdose crisis in America is important for various reasons. One reason is that adding new resources also creates some competition when it comes to producers and the price gouging. A great source of debate over recent years has been the fact that Big Pharma companies that make Naloxone products have continuously spiked prices along with the mounting opiate epidemic. While we haven’t seen too much of a shift in pricing trends since the initial FDA approval of Narcan, it still creates more options.
At the end of the day, what makes this medication so important is the lives it has the potential to save. So many people have already benefited from the expanded access to opioid overdose antidote drugs. Narcan’s easy method of use helps empower so many more people to try and save a life. It allows regular people to intervene in overdoses, and it reduces the risks of contamination through being stuck with dirty needles.
As always, we feel the more information people have about the resources that are available, the more likely they are to get the help they need. But we think those suffering with addiction need more than just to survive. We believe they deserve to thrive and have a better quality of life. Beyond escaping the grips of death from drugs there is real recovery. For many that begins with effective and innovative treatment.
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