Naloxone (Narcan, Evzio) is available over-the-counter without a prescription in fourteen states. In my home state, New Jersey, CVS retail pharmacies will carry the medication at all stores.
This medication should be part of every first aid kit and carried by anybody who has a friend or family member using or abusing narcotics. It should be readily available in any household where prescription narcotics are present.
What is naloxone and what does it do?
Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose. It cannot be used to get high. If you give it to a person who has not taken opioids nothing will happen. Naloxone is not a medication to allow abusers to use more drugs. They can’t inject themselves if they are in a respiratory arrest from an overdose.
What are opioids?
Examples of opioid drugs are painkillers such as morphine, methadone, buprenorphine, hydrocodone, fentanyl and oxycodone. Some brand names of opioid drugs are Percocet, Oxycontin, Vicodin, Tylenol #3, Demerol, Sublimaze and Duragesic. Heroin is also an opioid.
Who administers naloxone and how is it given?
The police, EMS, and other first responders are issued naloxone kits for emergency use. This is good news, as New Jersey has triple the amount of heroin-related deaths than the rest of the United States.
Naloxone is available as an injectable, a nasal spray, or in auto-injector form. Anyone can be educated on recognizing an overdose and administering the emergency medication.
It’s not just for drug addicts.
Where narcotics are present there is a chance for abuse and overdose, whether accidental or purposeful. Children may get into them, the elderly may be confused on timing and dosage, and drug seekers may help themselves.
Drug abuse and overdose is a public health problem.
Everybody knows somebody who uses illegal drugs or prescription drugs in an inappropriate manner. If you don’t, you are kidding yourself.
Families tend to treat drug and alcohol abuse as taboo subjects. I know several people who have family members struggling with drug abuse issues, jail time, recovery and relapses, overdoses, etc. Our family has been there and back, more than once. I’ve always been frank in sharing our experiences because I want others to feel free to talk about their problem and seek help. It is time to stop the silence, the suffering, and the stigma surrounding drug abuse.
Naloxone is available without a prescription in fourteen states. In some other states, caregivers of a person possessing narcotics (by prescription or illegal means) can get a prescription for naloxone for emergency use.
I went to my local CVS pharmacy today and tried to buy over-the-counter naloxone. It was not in stock. I was told nobody asked for it so it wasn’t part of usual inventory. However, it could be ordered. The kicker: it costs $700.
We need to do something about Big Pharma price gouging customers. It is not an expensive medicine, but as far as I know there is only one auto-injector version. It is similar to epinephrine auto-injectors for allergic emergencies. Naloxone should not be cost-prohibitive.
The bottom line.
As a registered nurse certified in advanced cardiac life support I am qualified to recognize an overdose and administer the medication. If I can stop and perform CPR I should be able to administer naloxone if a person is unresponsive and not breathing due to a suspected overdose – without cost being a factor.
Anyone can be trained to recognize an overdose and administer naloxone in the same way as an epinephrine injection for life-threatening allergic responses.
Naloxone is not a cure for drug overdose. It will reverse the effects of the overdose and put the person in withdrawal. It is a temporary solution to save a life and get treatment for the underlying problem. It’s better to save a life and give the person a chance at recovery, than to let them die because naloxone is unaffordable.