What is Narcan?
Narcan is the newest FDA-approved formulation of naloxone—a medication that is designed to quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose for a short time until the individual can receive emergency medical attention. If taken within the first few minutes of an overdose, naloxone can restore proper respiratory function in a person who has stopped breathing or is breathing very slowly due to an opioid overdose.
Naloxone itself has been in use since the 1970s, and it is considered the primary go-to medication for anyone suffering from a potential overdose. However, up until recently, naloxone was only available in the form of an injection. This meant that administering the medicine was primarily left in the hands of trained medical personnel. Still, all of that changed once the FDA approved Narcan.
Instead of being injected, Narcan comes in the form of an easy-to-use nasal spray that emits the naloxone directly into the person’s nostrils. From there, the medicine is then absorbed through the nasal lining and directly into the bloodstream.
The fact that Narcan is so easy to administer without medical training or assistance ensures it can be a huge help in the fight against opioid overdoses, and already there are countless physicians and lawmakers who are pushing for greater access to the medication since it could potentially help to prevent many overdose deaths from occurring. Of course, naloxone only provides temporary reversal of overdose symptoms, which means that there is still a high chance that the individual could die without proper help. Nonetheless, the drug typically begins to work in around two to five minutes and could still help to save the individual’s life until emergency help arrives.
How Does Narcan Work in the Body?
As with the injectable form of naloxone, Narcan works by blocking the brain’s opioid receptors. When using Narcan for an overdose, the naloxone binds itself to these receptors in a way that can both block and reverse the effects of any other opioids in the body. However, the naloxone has a very short life once inside the body, which means it can only perform this function for a set period of time after which the person may start to overdose again. This is why it is imperative that the individual still receives emergency medical attention. Still, Narcan is packaged to include two doses, which allows for a second dosing should the person start showing signs of overdosing again.
Narcan alone definitely isn’t enough to solve the current opioid crisis. Nonetheless, it has the potential to be a lifesaver for anyone who is currently struggling with opiates. For this reason, it is most definitely something every opiate user needs to know about.