Our country is in the midst or a war on our home turf. Every day, we see new stories of lives lost to the opioid epidemic. I have now been volunteering with the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition for two years doing Narcan training and overdose prevention education around the state. There are many misconceptions about Narcan. Here are the facts.
- Narcan will reverse opioids, not just heroin overdose, but any opioid overdose. That includes fentanyl and carfentanyl but it may take multiple doses for these because they are stronger than heroin. That also includes prescription opioids (pain pills).
- I have seen Narcan used in cases where someone wasn’t abusing opioids and just accidentally took too much (ex: elderly person prescribed opioids for chronic pain, forgot they already took their meds and took too much by accident OR a child gets into medication and accidentally overdoses). Narcan will work for overdoses in these cases, too.
- Narcan will not work for overdoses on other drugs like alcohol, methamphetamine or benzodiazepines like Xanax. It is specific to opioid receptors in the brain. It only works in opioid overdoses.
- Narcan only buys time for help to arrive. It works for 30–90 minutes. That means while Narcan will reverse the overdose, the person absolutely has to go to the hospital immediately. Otherwise, when the dose wears off they will go back into an overdose.
5. Why do we give it if it only works 30–90 minutes? Opioid overdoses cause the respiratory center in the brain to stop working. This causes the person to stop breathing. Brain death begins within 2 minutes after someone stops breathing. It is impossible, unless you live next door to an ambulance, for help to arrive before 2 minutes. Narcan buys us valuable time to reverse the overdose and get them breathing again until help arrives.
6. Kentucky law allows for ANYONE, as long as they get trained, to carry Narcan. Many states have or are working on similar laws. To find out the law in your state, check here: http://choopersguide.com/content/naloxone-laws-by-state-map.html.
7. In Kentucky, the law also protects the administering person under a Good Samaritan law. That means as long as you are trained, you follow that training, and you stay with the patient until help arrives, you are legally protected.
8. You cannot get high off of Narcan.
8. Most people do not get violent after getting Narcan. It is much more common that they wake up confused because they don’t know they’ve overdosed. The last thing they remember is taking the opioid. If you calmly tell them they’ve overdosed and they’re going to the hospital, it will help them understand what’s going on around them.
9. If you suspect someone has overdosed and you’re not sure what they’ve taken, give them the Narcan anyway. There are no adverse affects if you give it and they’ve taken something else.
10. The ONLY thing Narcan “enables” is breathing. One irrefutable fact is that death is the only thing that ends the chance chance of recovery from opioid addiction. As long as there is life, there is hope for recovery.
We are all on the front lines in the war against the opioid epidemic, whether we like it or not. Narcan allows us to stem the tide of overdose deaths in the U.S. and will help us win the war against the opioid epidemic in America.
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask. I am happy to help.
Thank you for reading!!!