Many communities fighting the opiate epidemic are using Narcan to fight overdoses and reduce deaths. Narcan, also known as naloxone, is a drug that blocks the effects of opiates and prevents overdose deaths. It has become a lifesaver in many frustrated communities affected by addiction. When injected, the drug begins to work within a few minutes, but multiple doses may be required to save an opiate user’s life, depending on the severity of overdose. It also comes as a spray that can be used one time only.
Because of Narcan’s effectiveness, the federal government has made funds available to communities and many states have made the drug more accessible to consumers, over-the-counter. But is it worth the investment? Is it really saving lives?
The resounding answer in most communities is that Narcan and other naloxone drugs are making a huge difference and lives on a daily basis. For example, just last week, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the workers at Isadore’s Pizzeria saved two lives after the businesses decided to keep a dosage of Narcan behind the counter. (A nurse donated the spray after hearing how bad the opiate epidemic in the area had become.) Many of the workers there have family or friends who have battled addiction themselves. (In Ohio, drug overdoses are now more common than car accident deaths.) Workers at Isadore’s said they noticed a couple, passed out in car in the parking lot, with lips and fingernails turning purple. The Narcan dosage brought them back from the brink of death. Workers at the restaurant immediately contacted the local syringe exchange program to get more Narcan in case of emergencies.
It’s a sad fact that opiate overdoses still seem to be increasing, and more and more often, people from all walks of life are being touched by addiction. Unfortunately, Narcan is becoming a normalized part of communities where opiates, and especially heroin addiction, seems almost mainstream. In Massachusetts, police officers have recently started carrying the drug, but how found that drugs such as fentanyl take more than just one dosage. They have now been approved to carry more than one dosage at a time, but there’s danger of running out if there are multiple overdoses on powerful drugs. The budgets of many communities are strapped, and the amount of Narcan needed for overdoses on stronger opiates may be outside of their reach.
This doesn’t mean that the drug won’t be available. Communities and governments have started to get creative and change the laws regarding purchase of the drug. Many states now sell it over the counter while others grapple over letting police use the drug. Last week n Minnesota, Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc. announced its 70 Wisconsin Pick ‘n Save, Copps, and Metro Market stores will begin selling naloxone directly to consumers. Access to this drug will give loved ones a medical tool that can save lives, and even addicts themselves a chance at surviving a fatal overdose. As opiates grow increasingly strong on the street, however, it’s not safe to assume that even multiple doses of Narcan can block every overdose.