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Opioid Overdose-Reversing Nasal Spray

Opioids are primarily used for pain management. They act on the opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the body to reduce the intensity of pain signals.

Navigation: Opvee: New Opioid Overdose-Reversing Nasal Spray Gets FDA Approval, What Are the Effects of Opioid Overdose?, Nasal Spray to Reverse Opioid Overdose: How Does it Work?, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


Opioid overdoses are often life-threatening. This class of drugs includes prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as illegal drugs like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

Opioids are primarily used for pain management. They act on the opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the body to reduce the intensity of pain signals. They can be highly effective in relieving moderate to severe pain, especially when other pain medications have not been successful.

Opioids can also be used in certain medical situations including for anesthesia, cough suppression, diarrhea treatment, and even opioid addiction treatment.

Despite its benefits, opioids are known for having a high potential for abuse that can lead to dependence and addiction. This is why they should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional and in accordance with prescribed dosages and durations.

When someone takes an excessive amount of opioids, it can depress their central nervous system, leading to respiratory depression, where breathing becomes dangerously slow or stops altogether. This can result in a lack of oxygen to the brain and other vital organs, potentially leading to permanent brain damage or death.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid overdoses have become a significant public health crisis in the US, where tens of thousands of people die each year due to opioid overdoses.

The crisis has been fueled by the misuse of prescription opioids, the increasing availability of illicit opioids like fentanyl, and the lack of access to effective addiction treatment and overdose reversal medications, such as naloxone.

Recently, a new nasal spray to reverse opioid and fentanyl overdoses received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


Opvee: New Opioid Overdose-Reversing Nasal Spray Gets FDA Approval

The FDA recently approved another easy-to-use medication that can reverse fentanyl and opioid overdoses, which are driving the current drug crisis.

Similar to naloxone, Opvee is a life-saving drug that has been used  for decades to quickly counter heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkiller overdoses. This drug can also block the effects of opioids in the brain. When used, Opvee can restore normal breathing and blood pressure in those who have recently experienced an overdose.

Opvee is actually a nasal spray update of nalmefene, a drug that was first approved as an injection in the mid-1990s. However, nalmefene was later taken off the market because of low sales.

With the FDA approval, Opvee may become more widely used as a solution for opioid overdoses.

“The agency continues to advance the FDA Overdose Prevention Framework and take actionable steps that encourage harm reduction by supporting the development of novel overdose reversal products,” said Robert M. Califf, MD, FDA Commissioner. “The availability of nalmefene nasal spray places a new prescription opioid reversal option in the hands of communities, harm reduction groups and emergency responders.”

The Food and Drug Administration endorsed Opvee to address the naloxone shortage, so that there is a viable alternative for the drug. Naloxone comes as both a nasal spray and injection.

Opvee, which was developed by Opiant Pharmaceuticals, showed similar recovery results to Narcan in studies funded by the federal government. Narcan is currently the leading brand of naloxone nasal spray.

Right now it is unclear how Opvee will be used differently compared to naloxone, but according to experts Opvee may have a longer-acting effect, which is a potential downside. With that said, this new nasal spray will be available for patients 12 and older, and only via prescription.

The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Dr. Nora Volkow, said: “The whole aim of this was to have a medication that would last longer but also reach into the brain very rapidly.”

Experts are still looking into the potential downsides of opioid reversal drugs. So far they have established that these drugs can create intense withdrawal symptoms after reversing the opioid overdose. Common withdrawal symptoms include nausea, anxiety, diarrhea, and muscle cramps. With naloxone, these symptoms may last 30 to 40 minutes.

According to emergency medicine physician Dr. Lewis Nelson of Rutgers University, these withdrawal symptoms can potentially last six hours or more with nalmefene, which means patients will need extra treatment by healthcare professionals to avoid long-lasting withdrawal.

Indivior, which recently acquired Opiant Pharmaceuticals, plans to launch Opvee in October. They are still considering the pricing for their new nasal spray.


What Are the Effects of Opioid Overdose?

The FDA approval of Opvee comes as drug overdose deaths inched up slightly last year. In 2022, over 109,000 fatal overdoses were recorded. Over two-thirds of those deaths had something to do with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. These have replaced heroin and prescription opioids in terms of fatal overdoses.

It goes without saying that an opioid overdose can have severe and potentially life-threatening effects. Some of the effects of opioid overdose include:

Respiratory depression: Opioids can suppress the respiratory system, causing slow and shallow breathing or even stopping breathing altogether. This can lead to a lack of oxygen in the body, which can result in brain damage, organ failure, or death.

Sedation and confusion: Opioid overdose can cause extreme drowsiness, confusion, and disorientation. Individuals may be difficult to wake up or may drift in and out of consciousness.

Pinpoint pupils: One common physical sign of opioid overdose is pinpoint pupils, where the pupils constrict and become very small.

Cyanosis: Cyanosis refers to the bluish discoloration of the lips, nails, and skin. It occurs due to a lack of oxygen in the body and is a serious sign of opioid overdose.

Nausea and vomiting: Some people may experience nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal distress as a result of opioid overdose.

Cardiac effects: Opioid overdose can lead to decreased blood pressure and heart rate. In severe cases, it can cause cardiac arrest, where the heart stops beating.

Coma and death: In the most severe cases, opioid overdose can result in a coma or death. Without prompt medical intervention, the lack of oxygen and suppression of vital functions can be fatal.

An opioid overdose is considered a medical emergency. Immediate medical attention is crucial. If you suspect someone is experiencing an opioid overdose, call emergency services right away.

Nasal Spray to Reverse Opioid Overdose: How Does it Work?

Nasal spray formulations of naloxone are commonly used to reverse opioid overdoses. Naloxone is a medication that works as an opioid receptor antagonist, meaning it can block the effects of opioids on the body.

When someone overdoses on opioids, their breathing can become dangerously slow or stop altogether, leading to potentially fatal consequences.

Nasal spray formulations of naloxone, such as Narcan, provide a quick and convenient way to administer the medication in emergency situations.

The nasal spray comes in a device specifically designed to deliver the medication through the nasal passages. It usually consists of a plastic device with a nozzle and a dose of naloxone inside.

When the device is used, it releases a measured dose of naloxone solution into the nasal passages. The nozzle is inserted into one nostril, and the naloxone is sprayed into the nose. The nasal passages have a rich blood supply and a thin membrane, which allows the naloxone to be absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.

Once in the bloodstream, naloxone competes with opioids for binding sites on opioid receptors in the brain. Opioid receptors are proteins found in the central nervous system that opioids typically bind to, causing various effects, including pain relief and respiratory depression.

By binding to opioid receptors, naloxone displaces the opioids and effectively blocks their effects. This can rapidly reverse the respiratory depression caused by opioid overdose, restoring normal breathing and potentially saving the person’s life.

The onset of naloxone action can vary but is generally rapid, often within minutes.

However, it is important to seek medical help even after administering naloxone, as the effects of opioids can last longer than the effects of naloxone. The individual may require further medical attention and monitoring. Health professionals can also address the withdrawal symptoms caused by taking naloxone. This withdrawal can be distressing and potentially dangerous, so it is important for medical professionals to evaluate and provide further care after naloxone administration.

So while naloxone can rapidly restore breathing and reverse the life-threatening effects of an overdose, its effects are temporary, and it may wear off before all the opioids in the person’s system are cleared.

Medical professionals can assess the person’s condition, monitor their vital signs, and provide necessary support and treatment. They can also address any underlying issues related to substance use, offer counseling or referral services, and help prevent future overdoses.

Remember, naloxone is an emergency intervention that buys time and reverses the acute effects of an opioid overdose, but it does not replace the need for comprehensive medical care.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an opioid addiction, look for a rehab center near you today and ask about their available treatment programs. Learn all about how addiction treatment works and get started on the road to recovery.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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