Narcan nasal spray is now available over the counter.  Should you get it?

Narcan nasal spray is now available over the counter. Should you get it?

Have you heard of Narcan? It’s the brand name for a drug called naloxone, and it’s a lifesaver. Literally. Can block and reverse the effects of a opioid overdose and make the difference between life and death.

Last week the FDA approved over-the-counter (OTC) sales of naloxone nasal spray. As pharmacies, grocery stores, and even gas stations pack space for naloxone nasal spray on their shelves alongside other first aid products, here’s some insight into the life-saving drug and why you should have it.

What is Narcan?

Naloxone (sold under the brand names Narcan, Evzio and Zimhi) is what is called an opioid antagonist. This means that it attaches itself to opioid receptors in your body and blocks the effects of opioids on the brain. Opioids are drugs such as heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl.

How does Narcan work?

Narcan, or any naloxone nasal spray, quickly restores normal breathing to a person who may have stopped breathing or is breathing very slowly due to an opioid overdose.

Naloxone can be given in two ways: by injection or prepackaged nasal spray. Only the nasal spray is currently approved for OTC sales.

Why should you have Narcan?

Opioid overdoses are more common than you might think. More than 130 people in the United States die every day from opioid overdoses and it happens to people from all walks of life. You might think you’d never see it happen, but what if you do? If you have naloxone with you, it may be able to help. And it is possible: 8 out of 10 opioid overdoses occur at home and 4 out of 10 opioid overdoses have bystanders present.

The potential population at risk includes adolescents, people who are prescribed opioids to manage chronic pain, people who have substance use disorders, or those who have been treated in the past for substance use disorders.

Does Narcan Have Side Effects?

The drug is considered safe and has no effect on someone who does not have opioids in their system. While naloxone won’t work for non-opioid overdoses, such as those caused by cocaine or methamphetamines, it won’t harm anyone. The CDC recommends using naloxone whenever someone witnesses a person experiencing symptoms of an overdose, even if the drug that caused it is unknown. Overdose symptoms include pinpoint pupils, a weak heartbeat, difficulty speaking, loss of consciousness, vomiting, cold or bluish skin, or stopped or slow breathing, sometimes with gurgling sounds.

Allergic reactions to naloxone are rare, and the risk of death from an overdose is higher

compared to the risk of an allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction include hives or swelling of the face, lips or throat. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical help right away.

If a person is dependent on opioids, they may experience withdrawal symptoms after receiving naloxone. These symptoms are usually not life-threatening and can include headaches, blood pressure changes, heart rate changes, sweating, nausea, and shaking.

How do you give someone Narcan nasal spray?

To administer a dose of nasal spray, tilt the head of the person who appears to have overdosed back and squirt the pre-filled device into one nostril. Make sure you push the plunger all the way down to give the person the full dose. It works in two or three minutes. If the person has not woken up after 3 minutes, another dose of naloxone may be needed.

Call 911 immediately after giving the medicine and stay with the person until help arrives. He tries to keep them awake, without slapping or hitting them, and keeps them on their side to prevent them from choking.

How long does Narcan block opiates?

Naloxone works to reverse the overdose for 30-90 minutes. Because opioids can stay in the body longer, a person can overdose again after the naloxone wears off.

Where can I get Narcan and how much does Narcan cost?

Narcan is available in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico. Prices range from $24 to $129. Some health insurance providers and prescription discount programs cover the drug.

It could take months for Narcan to be readily available OTC nationwide. Meanwhile, every state has laws that allow people to do this access naloxone. There are also community naloxone distribution programs in most states that allow people to order the drug for free online and have it delivered in the mail.

Talk to your doctor or local pharmacist to find out how to get Narcan now.