The Opioid Crisis
You’ve probably heard the term “opioid crisis” on the news, but what does that mean exactly? In short, it means that a large number of individuals are addicted to these substances and that opioid abuse is leading to increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths.
Consider these statistics:
How Naloxone Helps
Naloxone is a medication that blocks an opioid from interacting with critical areas of the brain and body to the degree that it helps to reverse a potential overdose.
The medication is available in several forms and is carried by emergency responders and some law enforcement personnel. It is also stocked by most hospitals and emergency clinics that treat opioid overdose patients. Physicians may also prescribe naloxone as an emergency backup medication for addicts who are at risk of overdosing during rehabilitation or other treatment programs.
|Medication Generic Name||Naloxone|
|Medication Brand Names||Narcan, Evzio|
|Conditions Treated||Opioid overdose|
|Availability/Accessibility||Prescribed by medical professionals for home administration; administered in hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation facilities; administered by emergency responders|
|Administration Method||Nasal spray; injection|
|Effective||Overdoses that involve opioids, including prescription opioid pain relievers, heroin, and morphine|
|Ineffective||Overdoses related to stimulants, such as cocaine, or downers, such as benzodiazepines (Valium, Klonopin, etc.)|
|Treatment Result||Naloxone treatment results don’t always outlast the impact of the opioid, which means the medication might need to be re-administered. Call for medical assistance if it is not already present as soon as naloxone is administered.|
|FDA Approval Status||FDA-approved in 1971 for opioid abuse treatment|
In medical terminology, the category of medication under which naloxone falls is “opioid antagonist.” This term quite literally means that naloxone antagonizes – or disrupts – the effect of opioids on the brain and body of an individual who has overdosed.
Here’s how it works:
Naloxone is a defensive measure, meaning that it is administered when an individual appears to be suffering from an opioid overdose. Medical professionals and addiction specialists consider it a safety net that can be used to halt the serious and often fatal impact of an opioid overdose. However, in some cases, it is used as a preventative measure.
The FDA approves of three methods for naloxone administration.
Typically, patients receive naloxone in one of two ways. First, they can be administered the medication by medical professionals or first responders as emergency treatment during a potential opioid overdose. This scenario usually occurs when a concerned loved one calls 911 because of a possible overdose, or the patient enters an emergency room or urgent care facility with symptoms of an overdose.
In some cases, however, patients may be prescribed naloxone as a proactive measure. Common reasons a medical professional might prescribe naloxone include:
Every state legislates the administration of medications and who can handle them differently, so the exact details about naloxone provision are unique to each location.
The most common side effects of naloxone treatment are opioid withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms occur because naloxone blocks the effects of opioids, which makes the addict’s body react from essentially being starved of a substance it is used to having and can include body aches, fever, chills, weakness, dizziness, nervousness, and irritability.
In some cases, patients can have an allergic reaction to naloxone. Signs of an allergic reaction include hives or swelling, especially in the face or throat. If an individual experiences these symptoms and is not already under the care of a medical professional, contact medical help immediately.
Even if an allergic reaction doesn’t occur, it is critical to seek medical assistance after administering or receiving naloxone treatment. While the timely administration of naloxone can save someone’s life, the individual may need additional medical assistance, including repeated doses of naloxone. A repeat dose is so common that most prescriptions and opioid overdose kits are equipped with at least two doses of naloxone.
Learn more by reading our guide on heroin addiction, including how to find help for an opioid addiction before an overdose occurs. Additionally, visit one of these resources for information on opioid addiction and naloxone treatment: