Naloxone (Narcan, Evzio) is a medication that rapidly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. It works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and reversing or blocking the effects of the other opioids. Because naloxone can save lives, it may seem like a miracle drug. However, it is not without risks.
In this post, we’ll learn more about naloxone and the pros and cons to consider. Even though naloxone is relatively safe, there are still things to know about the drug.
What is Naloxone? What Does It Do?
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist medication approved by the FDA to prevent overdoses from opioids like heroin, morphine and oxycodone. It blocks opioid receptor sites and reverses the harmful effects from the overdose. Naloxone is administered when a person starts showing signs of overdose and comes in various forms like an IV, shot or nasal spray.
Even though emergency room staff and first responders are most likely to administer naloxone, opioid addicts and their families can carry it around, too. For example, if you are part of an MAT program (medication-assisted treatment), your doctor may give you naloxone in case you relapse and overdose. A doctor or pharmacist can show you how to use the drug safely and effectively.
Candidates for naloxone are those who:
- Take high doses of opioids
- Consume opioids to manage chronic pain
- Participate in Phoenix outpatient treatment for opioid abuse
- Recently experienced an opioid overdose
Why is Naloxone an Important Medication?
Naloxone is a very important drug because it saves lives. Opioid overdoses are dangerous because they affect the part of the brain that regulates breathing. As a result, taking too many opioids can lead to respiratory failure and death. Furthermore, combining opioids with other sedative drugs like alcohol speeds up this process.
Because of their ability to suppress breathing, opioids are responsible for a large percentage of overdose deaths. In 2016, over 63,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses, up 21% from the year before. Aside from breathing difficulties, opioid overdose symptoms include unconsciousness, confusion, small pupils and blue skin.
Without naloxone, we would have lost many more lives. While naloxone does allow many more people to live, it doesn’t fix the problem. People who abuse opioids still need a Phoenix treatment center to get better.
What are the Advantages to Prescribing Naloxone?
Naloxone is a life-saving medication. This is why the U.S. Surgeon General encourages more Americans to carry the drug with them in case of an accidental overdose. Let’s look closer at the many benefits to naloxone.
Safe and effective for almost anyone.
Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote for treating an opioid overdose. Rather than letting a patient die, first responders, emergency room workers and even family members can save more lives. Naloxone works incredibly fast, usually within 2-3 minutes. If the person does not wake up, you can deliver a second treatment.
Naloxone has been a life-changing drug for opioid overdoses for decades. Therefore, it’s not a new drug that we know little about. Patients generally respond very well to the medication and suffer no adverse side effects.
You can take it home.
The American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association support the take-home version of naloxone. It’s available for first responders, people who depend on opioids for pain relief and friends and family who are likely to be present if an overdose occurs.
No addictive properties.
Compared to other opioid treatments, naloxone doesn’t have any addictive properties. It only works if there are opiates in your system. Also, you cannot get “high” from the drug if you take it for recreational purposes.
What are the Disadvantages to Using Naloxone?
Unfortunately, most medications come with some type of risk. What you’ll need to do is weigh the pros and cons to naloxone and determine if the benefits outweigh the risks. In this particular case, they usually do.
False sense of security.
While naloxone is a powerful drug, some people worry that it can give opioid users a false sense of safety. They may unintentionally abuse opiates more because they know it’s possible to reverse an overdose.
Enabling an opioid problem.
As naloxone becomes more available, it raises ethical concerns. Some people worry that it will worsen the opioid crisis by enabling people to abuse these drugs. These findings are not true, but it is an argument that some continue to make.
Potential for adverse side effects.
Naloxone is not without side effects. While they certainly outweigh the risks of overdosing, they must still be acknowledged. Some common side effects of naloxone are nausea, diarrhea, high or low blood pressure, seizures and stomach pain.
Final Thoughts on Naloxone
At Continuum Recovery Center, we approach naloxone as any other drug. It is intended for good purposes and to reverse the harmful effects of an overdose, but there is a time and a place for it. Naloxone needs to be monitored as well to ensure it is being used safely and correctly.
Of course, there is a deeper problem at hand that requires attention, and that’s the addiction. Naloxone can reverse the side effects of an opioid overdose, but it does not address the addiction itself. To find out why you are abusing drugs and how to stop, you need Phoenix outpatient treatment for opioid abuse. Naloxone can then be added to your medication-assisted treatment regimen.
To learn more about Continuum Recovery Center’s approach to treating opioid addiction and how we safely use naloxone in the treatment process, contact us today. We have a medication-assisted program that includes behavioral therapies, cognitive therapies and medication.