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Over-the-Counter Narcan

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Can Over-the-Counter Narcan Save Lives?

Narcan (naloxone) can reverse opioid overdoses. When someone overdoses on opioids, their breathing can slow down or stop completely. Narcan works by binding to the same receptors in the brain that opioids bind to, blocking their effects and reversing the overdose.

Navigation: FDA Considers Allowing Over-the-Counter Narcan, What are Nonprofit Harm Reduction Groups?, What is Narcan?, How Can Over-the-Counter Narcan Save Lives?, Can Narcan Reverse Opioid Overdose?, What are the Effects of Opioid Overdose?, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


Opioids are a class of drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. They include prescription painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, as well as illicit drugs like heroin. While most of these drugs can be effective for short-term pain relief, they also carry a high risk of addiction, overdose, serious health problems, and even death when used improperly or without a prescription.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 70,630 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2019. There were 49,860 overdoses involving opioids that year.

Opioids work by attaching to specific receptors in the brain and other parts of the body, reducing the perception of pain and producing a sense of euphoria. This is what makes it addictive. It is essential to follow the prescribed dose and talk to a healthcare provider about any concerns or side effects.

Along with these prevention efforts, it is also important to discuss various solutions to opioid use disorder in order to protect those who have it.

In line with this, advisors to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discussed whether the nasal spray form of Naloxone (Narcan) should be made available over-the-counter (OTC).

The generic drug naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan is a life-saving drug that can reverse opioid overdoses. This may be the antidote to the current opioid overdose crisis that is affecting the country.

The meeting included two federal panels of addiction experts: the FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee as well as the Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee.

The proposed solution to preventing opioid-related overdose deaths is to allow OTC Naloxone access. Let’s take a closer look.


FDA Considers Allowing Over-the-Counter Narcan

Emergent BioSolutions Inc. is a Maryland-based company that was responsible for filing the application to the FDA. The company proposed to sell their generic Naloxone products without the need for a prescription. This will be the first application of a Naloxone-based nasal spray.

The two participating panels unanimously recommended to widely distribute Naloxone over the counter. Nonprescription Narcan can potentially serve as a major step forward in the world of addiction medicine and in the fight against opioid use disorder.

This opioid overdose reversal drug can slow down the skyrocketing number of opioid-related deaths, however, Naloxone’s prescription-only status is preventing it from reaching its full potential.

Emergent has not yet disclosed how much the OTC medication would cost if approved by the FDA. It is believed that making Narcan available over the counter will help lower its price. Right now, the average cost is $176 for a two-spray supply.

Most experts are in agreement that making the Narcan nasal spray available over the counter is a good idea. The FDA has yet to make its official decision regarding the proposal.


What are Nonprofit Harm Reduction Groups?

Nonprofit harm reduction groups, also known as nonprofit harm reduction therapeutics, are organizations or programs that aim to reduce the negative consequences of drug use through education, prevention, and treatment.

These organizations work to minimize harm caused by substance abuse, such as overdose, disease transmission, and social problems, without necessarily advocating for abstinence.

Harm reduction therapeutics may include services such as needle exchange programs, safe injection sites, and addiction treatment options. Nonprofit harm reduction therapeutics often rely on funding from private donations and government grants to provide their services.

Similarly, a nonprofit naloxone distributor is an organization that provides free or low-cost naloxone kits to individuals and communities in order to prevent opioid overdose deaths.

These organizations may also provide education and training on how to administer naloxone and recognize the signs of an overdose.

What is Narcan?

Now that the FDA is considering making the Narcan nasal spray available over the counter, we need to talk about what this drug is and what it does.

Narcan is a brand name for the drug naloxone. Naloxone is a medication that is used to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. It works by binding to the same receptors in the brain that opioids bind to, but naloxone blocks their effects and restores normal breathing. Narcan is usually administered as an injection or a nasal spray, but right now it is only available via prescription.

Narcan is an important drug because it is used as an emergency treatment for opioid overdose. It’s a life-saving medication because opioid overdose can cause respiratory depression, which may sometimes lead to brain damage or even death.

Narcan is a critical tool in preventing opioid overdose fatalities. This is why it is often carried by emergency medical personnel, law enforcement, and others who may encounter people at risk of overdose, such as an addiction physician.

How Can Over-the-Counter Narcan Save Lives?

Narcan plays an important role in the fight against opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction refers to the physical and psychological dependence on prescription or illegal opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, or prescription painkillers.

People with opioid addiction experience withdrawal symptoms, intense cravings, and compulsive drug-seeking behavior. This is a chronic medical condition that requires professional treatment and long-term management.

Just like other types of addiction, it can have serious consequences on a person’s physical and mental health, relationships, and quality of life. Making Narcan available over the counter can have significant life-saving advantages.

For example, making it an OTC medication will increase its availability. If Narcan can be obtained without a prescription, it will be more accessible to people who use opioids. This can help prevent deaths from overdose by allowing people to quickly and easily obtain the overdose-reversing medication.

When dealing with an overdose, we all know time is of the essence. Over-the-counter Narcan can be administered quickly, even by non-medical personnel, since it comes in a nasal spray form. This can rapidly reverse the effects of the overdose and prevent death.

Not only is it easily accessible, but it is also more cost-effective. Over-the-counter Narcan will be less expensive than the prescription version

Making Narcan available over the counter has the potential to save many lives from opioid overdose.

Can Narcan Reverse Opioid Overdose?

Narcan (naloxone) can reverse opioid overdoses. When someone overdoses on opioids, their breathing can slow down or stop completely. Narcan works by binding to the same receptors in the brain that opioids bind to, blocking their effects and reversing the overdose.

It can be administered through injection, nasal spray, or auto-injector. Narcan is a safe and effective way to save lives in the event of an opioid overdose. Therefore, it is an important weapon in the fight against the opioid overdose crisis.

The opioid overdose crisis is a public health emergency in which a large number of individuals are dying from opioid overdose. It has been fueled by the over-prescription of painkillers, the availability of illicit drugs, and the potency of synthetic opioids. The crisis has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths each year in the United States and other countries.

What are the Effects of Opioid Overdose?

An opioid overdose occurs when someone takes more opioids than their body can handle. This causes their breathing to slow down, and in some cases, stop completely. An opioid overdose can lead to unconsciousness, brain damage, and if not treated immediately, death.

Sometimes opioid abuse starts innocently enough: with people misusing their prescription opioids. Some people misuse their prescription by accident, while others do so to experience the euphoric effects of opioids. Opioids can produce feelings of euphoria and relaxation, which can be desirable for some individuals. However, these are highly potent medications and they can get you hooked if you are not careful.

Symptoms of opioid overdose include extreme drowsiness, difficulty breathing, pinpoint pupils, slow or irregular heartbeat, and blue lips and nails.

Here are other potential effects of opioids on the body:

Respiratory depression: This is one of the most dangerous effects of opioid overdose. It can cause the person to stop breathing, which can lead to brain damage or death.

Coma: An opioid overdose can cause a person to fall into a deep coma.

Nausea and vomiting: Opioid overdose can cause a person to feel extremely nauseous and vomit, which can lead to dehydration and other complications.

Confusion and disorientation: Overdosing on opioids can cause a person to become confused and disoriented, making it difficult for them to communicate or make decisions.

Cardiac arrest: Opioid overdose can cause the heart to stop beating, leading to cardiac arrest and potentially death.

Seizures: In some cases, opioid overdose can cause seizures, which can also be life-threatening.

If you suspect that someone has overdosed on opioids, seek medical attention immediately.

While Narcan can be a life-saving medication in the event of an overdose, it should be noted that this is not a one-and-done treatment. It is still important to call 911 even after the person wakes up. They still need further treatment after an overdose even if it was reversed.

Look for an addiction treatment center near you if you or someone you love is struggling with opioid use disorder and addiction. Help is available. Your journey to lasting sobriety begins today.

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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