All across our nation, opioid drug abuse continues to claim the lives of our neighbors, family members, and other loved ones. With proper prevention and/or treatment, these deaths can be prevented. Narcan is a powerful tool which can save a person’s life.
What Is Naloxone?
All opioid drugs depress the central nervous system. This results in decreased blood pressure, breathing, heart, and temperature rates. During overdose these critical life support functions slow even more, to the point where they begin to shut down. Left untreated, these circumstances can lead to death.
Naloxone hydrochloride is an opioid antagonist, which, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse means “that it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids.” Because of these effects, naloxone holds great success as an overdose reversal drug. This mechanism of action occurs rapidly by “restoring normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications.” Naloxone is available in three FDA-approved formulations, one of which is Narcan.
What Is Narcan?
To stop overdose in its tracks, a medication must be administered in a form which allows the drug to begin working right away. At a time like this when every minute matters, a pill or tablet would take far too long to work. This is why naloxone is administered in rapid-release formulations for overdose, such as with Narcan.
As a nasal spray, Narcan delivers the naloxone to the sensitive tissues within your nasal cavity. These tissues are highly permeable to naloxone, allowing the drug to pass quickly so it can make its way to the brain. Each single dose contains 2 mg or 4 mg of naloxone. According to the manufacturer, this medication begins reversing overdose in two to three minutes.
- Comes already assembled
- Does not require an injection
- Is available over-the-counter in certain locations
Because of these features, Narcan is a life-saving device which is easy to use for family members, friends, and caregivers of opioid drug abusers.
How Do I Use Narcan?
The minute it becomes apparent a person is overdosing, Narcan should be administered. To use this drug, the overdosed individual must be placed on their back. Narcan is then inserted and sprayed into one nostril. At this point, the drug goes to work right away.
Medscape cautions that multiple doses may be required if a person fails to begin breathing or relapses back to unconsciousness and respiratory depression. To meet these needs, each pack of Narcan comes with two dosages. Each dose has enough medication for one use and should only be used once.
Even though Narcan works within minutes to slow or stop overdose, a person isn’t necessarily in the clear. Emergency medical help should still be contacted as soon as possible. While you’re waiting for help to arrive it’s crucial that you continue to watch the individual closely. Emergency medical personnel should monitor the individual for two hours to ensure that they do not suffer from any additional respiratory complications.
Can I Purchase Narcan Over-the-counter?
Narcan is changing the face of the opioid epidemic for many reasons, namely due to its accessibility. While many emergency medical teams and first responders do carry this drug, over-the-counter (OTC) availability puts Narcan into the hands of those who need it.
Like other medications, Narcan is available with a prescription. But with the growing concerns of opioid overdose across our nation, this drug is increasingly becoming available OTC. The manufacturer’s website states “As of December 28, 2016, ten states require a prescription from your healthcare professional to obtain NARCAN® Nasal Spray.” Two nationwide pharmacies have made huge strides in promoting Narcan’s life-saving potential. In 2016, Walgreens and CVS both announced that they were expanding access to Narcan without a prescription.
Keep in mind, state legislation is always changing. As time passes, this medication may become even more widely offered OTC. For example, Narcan was recently made available over-the-counter in Michigan. This option is dependent on state-specific laws regarding the prescription and administration of Narcan.
How Do I Know If Narcan Is Available Without A Prescription In My State?
In order to obtain this drug, it’s important to know if you can purchase it this way in your state. These laws vary. Some states may only dispense Narcan without a prescription to the patient, whereas others will do so for those who wish to protect their loved ones.
The Prescription Drug Abuse Policy System offers resources on the specific legislation and broadened naloxone access laws on a state-by-state basis. Beyond this resource, the easiest way to find out would be to ask your family doctor or local pharmacist.
Who Should Carry Narcan?
Within situations of overdose, time matters. Medications like Narcan help individuals and families have a protective measure in place, should overdose occur. If you have a loved one who abuses opioid drugs, it’s recommended that you keep Narcan on hand. This will allow you to dispense treatment immediately if they start exhibiting signs of overdose.
Additionally, a person who is experiencing overdose themselves may not be able to administer the Narcan. Even then, chronic opioid abusers should keep Narcan on or near them. It’s important the user notifies those close to them of the location of this drug, so that these individuals have access to it fast. The prescribing doctor or pharmacist (if purchased over-the-counter) can walk you through using Narcan.
Can You Get In Trouble For Administering Narcan?
Unfortunately, some individuals are apprehensive of administering this drug for fear of liability should something happen. To counter this fear, many states are increasingly developing legislation to protect people who choose to use this drug. These individuals are referred to as lay people and the laws protecting them as Good Samaritan Laws. The Network for Public Health Law has published a fact sheet detailing if and how these protections are in place.
In early 2017 the National Conference of State Legislatures reported that “To encourage people to seek out medical attention for an overdose or for follow-up care after naloxone has been administered, 37 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of a Good Samaritan or 911 drug immunity law.”
We Can Help You Fight The Opioid Epidemic
Experiencing an opioid addiction, either personally or within a loved one’s life, can be a very frightening experience, and overdose even more so. If you’re concerned about an opioid overdose and would like to learn more about prevention or treatment options, like Narcan, let DrugRehab.org help. Opioid addictions are serious, but the good news is that they’re treatable. We can help you find a treatment program to help you recover. Contact us now.
For More Information Related to “Is Narcan Available Over-The-Counter In The United States?” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From DrugRehab.org:
- Drug Overdose Deaths At All-Time High
- Can You Buy Naloxone Without A Prescription?
- How Prescription Opiates Can Lead To A Heroin Addiction
- Opiate Epidemic Is Changing Pain Management
- Opioid Overdose Death Reduced by Naloxone Rescue Kit
DAILYMED — Label: NARCAN- naloxone hydrochloride spray
NARCAN (naloxone HCL) NASAL SPRAY 4 mg — More Questions?
National Conference of State Legislatures — Drug Overdose Immunity and Good Samaritan Laws
National Institute on Drug Abuse — Opioid Overdose Reversal with Naloxone (Narcan, Evzio)