Narcan, also known by its generic name naloxone, is a medication used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose rapidly. This is a crucial tool in addressing the opioid crisis and has proven to be a lifesaving intervention in many cases. After much advocacy, the federal government is allowing naloxone to be sold over-the-counter, without a prescription, starting next week.
The Importance of Narcan
Narcan has been a vital tool in saving lives since the 1970s. Now, it can be carried and used by anyone who comes across an overdose situation, making it more likely they get care and medical help.
- Rapid Overdose Rescue: Narcan binds to the same receptors in the brain that opioids attach to. By doing this, it effectively displaces opioids and reverses their effects. This can quickly restore normal breathing and consciousness in someone experiencing an opioid overdose, preventing death.
- Accessibility for Bystanders: Opioid overdoses can happen unexpectedly, and having it readily available can be critical in saving lives. It can be administered by family members, friends, or bystanders who may encounter an overdose until help and medical professionals arrive. (Overdoses still require medical monitoring after reversal.)
- Reducing Stigma and Promoting Harm Reduction: Making it more accessible helps reduce the stigma associated with opioid use disorders. It also promotes harm reduction strategies as a way of saving lives. Helping keep opioid users alive until they seek treatment is the ultimate goal of harm reduction.
Benefits of Making Narcan OTC
Improving accessibility and use of this lifesaving tool will help reduce stigma and save lives. While once, long ago, it was only available to first responders, now parents, teachers, opioid users, and others can make a difference by carrying and using it during an emergency.
- Increased Accessibility: Making it available over the counter improves access to the medication for a broader range of people, including those who may not have easy access to prescription medications.
- Rapid Response: OTC availability can quicker administration of naloxone in emergencies. Bystanders and family members don’t need to wait for medical professionals to arrive before administering the medication.
- Empowerment of Individuals: OTC availability empowers individuals to take proactive steps to address opioid overdose in their communities. People can now buy it without the intervention of medical professionals. This allows more discretion and anonymity.
Drawbacks of Making Narcan OTC
Narcan is a great tool to help save lives, but it won’t work if it isn’t used correctly or isn’t available to people who need it. Here are some ways that OTC Narcan can be a drawback.
- Lack of Training: There is a risk of incorrect administration or inadequate naloxone dosing, which could lead to complications or reduced effectiveness.
- Delay in Professional Medical Care: Relying solely on OTC Narcan might lead to individuals thinking that administering Narcan is a substitute for seeking professional medical care. It’s vital for individuals who overdosed to receive medical attention after Narcan administration. People may have damage to their brain, lungs, heart, or other organs.
- Cost Considerations: The cost of OTC Narcan might vary, and individuals without insurance coverage might face challenges in affording the medication. California is lucky in this respect; many jurisdictions have Narcan available for free. However, the cost for OTC Narcan will be $44.99 per carton of two doses.
Using Narcan to Save Lives
Balancing accessibility with the need for proper training and medical oversight is crucial to ensure that OTC Narcan contributes effectively to saving lives without inadvertently causing harm.
Price considerations are a real issue that needs to be addressed for vulnerable users; after all, it often takes multiple cartons of Narcan to reverse an overdose that involves fentanyl or carfentanyl. Proper education and guidance for potential users will be essential to maximize the benefits of OTC availability while minimizing potential risks.