Narcan and Its Life-Saving Impact

Narcan (Naloxone) Spray

When you have loved ones who use or abuse opioids, every day can feel harrying. As an addictive substance, users can sometimes use more and more amounts of the substance in an attempt to seek the same high as they once had and their tolerance grows. In some cases, illegally obtained opioids can be laced with fentanyl, dramatically increasing the potency, but also the risk of overdose.

As the opioid overdose epidemic continues to grow, spreading awareness of a simple treatment that can save lives becomes paramount. From 2020 to 2021 alone, the CDC reports that the number of drug overdose deaths increased by over 16%, and of the nearly 107,000 reported drug overdose deaths in 2021, more than 3 in 4 were related to opioid use. There’s no denying that the opioid epidemic is worsening, but there’s no reason it has to continue to be fatal. With a simple medication, overdose symptoms can often be reversed and lives can be saved. A dose of naloxone can save lives during an emergency when every second matters and there isn’t time to wait for first responders.

What Is Narcan (Naloxone)?

Narcan is the name brand of naloxone, an opioid antagonist. Put simply, Narcan is a medication that reacts to the brain’s opioid receptors by binding to them and blocking them from taking in and responding to other opioid drugs like heroine or morphine. This can temporarily reverse the effects of opioids and grant critical time to bring a person experiencing an overdose to a hospital where they can be properly treated.

Naloxone works quickly, taking effect within minutes. During an opioid overdose, it’s common for breathing rates to drop dangerously low, but after using naloxone, the person will typically begin breathing normally again within 2 or 3 minutes.

How to Use

Naloxone is readily available in two forms that can be used without medical training: nasal sprays and injectable medication. Both are equally effective and have a good safety profile when used appropriately . Follow the instructions on the packaging prior to using these rescue medications.

Narcan should be used if you suspect that someone is overdosing on a substance. It’s not harmful to someone overdosing on a different substance, even if there are no opioids in their system. Key symptoms that indicate someone may need naloxone include:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Losing consciousness or falling asleep uncontrollably
  • Limpness
  • Slowed, weakened or no breathing
  • Clammy or cold skin
  • Discoloration in the nails and lips

If you suspect an overdose, the first thing to do is call for first responders. Be honest about your suspicions and don’t try to hide it if you know that the person experiencing an overdose has taken substances. Then, administer naloxone if you have it on hand. Do your best to keep the person conscious and breathing and roll them onto their side to prevent choking. Do not leave the overdosing person alone. Remain there until emergency assistance arrives.

Side Effects of Naloxone

While naloxone isn’t dangerous on its own, it does trigger symptoms of opioid withdrawal, which can be distressing for the person who was treated with it. These may include:

  • Irritability, restlessness or nervousness
  • Full-body aches
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Diarrhea, nausea or stomach pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Sneezing or runny nose

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sIn rare cases, people may experience an allergic reaction to naloxone when it is administered. The signs of a reaction include swelling in the lips, throat or face, or the development of hives anywhere on the body.


Why People Should Carry Naloxone


Sometimes, naloxone is recommended to be kept on hand for people who are taking certain extended-release opioid medications as prescribed by a physician. This is typically a precaution to ensure safety in case of an accidental overdose, as symptoms can quickly become life-threatening if not treated rapidly. Other people who are recommended to have a dose of naloxone on hand at all times include:


  • People taking a rotating opioid medication schedule
  • People who have been discharged from emergency treatment for opioid poisoning or intoxication
  • People who have used opioids and recently were released from incarceration
  • People prescribed both opioids and benzodiazepines


If you or a loved one are at an increased risk of an opioid overdose because of opioid use disorder, keeping naloxone on hand at all times can help prevent a fatal overdose. People who are overdosing typically can’t use naloxone on their own without assistance, so letting others know that you have it and where it is located can help reduce the risk as well.


Even if you or a loved one aren’t at risk of an opioid overdose, carrying naloxone can still save lives. It’s estimated that in around 40% of fatal overdoses, there was another person present, whether in public or private. When the general public carries naloxone, bystanders can help prevent fatal overdoses by reacting quickly.


Naloxone is available across all 50 states and can typically be received without a prescription from a doctor. Speak to your local pharmacist about your interest in carrying Narcan. You may also be able to get it from a community-based naloxone program, such as SAMBOX.


Massachusetts ramps up efforts to stop Opioid overdose with the SAMBOX Initiative

Opioid addiction can feel like it’s overwhelming. It can feel like it pervades every part of life, controlling all aspects of it. Watching a loved one struggle can make you feel helpless and frustrated. Either way, the potential for an overdose is always lingering if these substances are used without a prescription. The easiest way to prevent a fatal overdose is to carry naloxone to reverse the effects.

SAMBOX is an opioid recovery harm reduction initiative designed to bring awareness to the ease of carrying naloxone. It also focuses on the Massachusetts Good Samaritan Law and Overdose Assistance Law. If you are acting in good faith when you use naloxone on someone overdosing, in most cases, you can’t be held liable for any results or in a civil suit. SAMBOX seeks to encourage communities placing rescue boxes in strategic locations across the state. These kits should contain naloxone, CPR rescue breathing barriers and gloves and the instructions for administering naloxone.

Whether you or your loved one is struggling with an opioid addiction, it’s important to recognize that you’re not alone. There’s support and help available, and it’s just a phone call away. At Mayflower Recovery, we offer a state-of-the-art recovery center and trained, compassionate addiction specialists to help navigate the withdrawal and recovery process.

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