Naloxone is a drug used to counter the effects that opioids have on the body. Fast-acting and effective, naloxone can temporarily reverse or halt an overdose. When administered to a person who is overdosing on opioids, naloxone can restore normal breathing if it has stopped or become slow and labored. There have been many documented cases where it has saved the lives of people who overdose.
For the first time since 2005, the Surgeon General issued an advisory regarding opioid abuse and naloxone. The advisory states that more Americans should carry naloxone to increase its availability to those at risk of opioid overdose. What we refer to as the “opioid epidemic” claims a life every 12.5 minutes, according to U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. Naloxone is already available over the counter (without a prescription) in many states. In addition to hospitals and ERs, many first responders have started to carry naloxone, including police and EMTs.
One purpose of the advisory is to spread awareness of opioid addiction and call attention to the number of people who die every day from an overdose. While naloxone is not a long-term treatment for opioid dependency, it is a strong, safe, and effective way to save the life of a person who has overdosed. Because more than 75% of overdoses happen outside of a medical environment, arming those at risk and the people around them will hopefully prevent many deaths.
How does naloxone work?
Otherwise known by the brand names Narcan or Evzio, naloxone is an opioid antagonist. It blocks the opioid receptors, preventing the drug from binding to them and reverses the effects of opioids. It prevents the release of dopamine into the brain, blocking the sensation of euphoria and any pain relief. It is safe, with no severe side effects. Naloxone will only affect a person with opioids in the body. It starts working 2-5 minutes after administration and works for approximately 30-90 minutes, so it must be followed by emergency medical care.
Naloxone can be administered in three ways: by injection, nasal mist, or auto-injection (similar to an epi-pen). The nasal mist was recently approved to increase availability and adoption of the drug’s use by laypersons (anybody without prior medical experience, essentially).
Naloxone has been used by doctors since the 1970s. However, the overwhelming number of opioid related deaths in the United States in recent years has led to an increase in its use and availability. Some physicians co-prescribe naloxone with opioids if the patient is being treated for chronic pain. The patient’s family members or caregivers may also be given a prescription to have it on hand in the event the patient overdoses. Most health insurance plans cover naloxone and it is widely available without a prescription. Though it costs over $100 per dose, there are many programs in place to subsidize or freely distribute it to people in need. Although naloxone is not a cure for opioid addiction, it gives the patient a chance to live through an overdose and seek further treatment.
While opioid medication can be abused, it is also a very useful tool for pain management. Not all overdoses are from abuse or addiction either, where some may be entirely accidental. Balcones Pain Consultants in the Austin, Texas area offers pain management for all kinds of chronic pain, and takes special care to make sure each patient is well informed and cared for. Beyond just medication, there are a range of advanced treatments available to manage or eliminate pain. In the Austin area, call (512) 834-4141 for an appointment at one of our convenient locations today. We see patients in Austin, Cedar Park, and Marble Falls, Texas.