Narcan – What Is It?
Narcan is the brand name of naloxone, an antidote for heroin and other opiates – prescription pills such as oxycodone, morphine, codeine, methadone, and Vicodin. Narcan blocks the opiate’s effects and can reverse an overdose.
Overdoses occur after taking too much of a drug. If a person stops breathing during an overdose, serious brain damage can occur. After administering a dose of Narcan, an overdose patient should begin to breathe more easily and may become alert.
If a person accidentally administers Narcan to someone who has not taken opioids, the person may feel no ill effects.
Who Can Administer Narcan?
Some people assume that only medical professionals can administer Narcan to an overdosing patient. This is not true. A non-trained person can administer Narcan to an overdosing drug user in many ways:
- A shot into a muscle. This is the most common way to administer Narcan. However, a shot into a muscle, most often in the shoulder, buttocks, or thigh, may require some level of medical training.
- A Narcan injection is also available without a prescription. An untrained person can easily administer these pre-filled injections, which work like EpiPens. Evzio comes with concise instructions.
- Nasal spray. People can administer Narcan through a nasal spray into the nostril of an overdose patient. This method is straightforward, meaning both trained and untrained people can use it.
How Can I Get Narcan?
Narcan was available only by prescription until recently, but some forms are available over the counter in several states. Massachusetts residents have had access to Narcan in drugs stores including Walgreens and CVS since 2016.
If it isn’t available over the counter, there are other options. Many emergency rooms will write prescriptions for patients who come in due to an overdose, but you should contact a doctor for more information about Narcan prescriptions.
Much like a person with allergies should keep an EpiPen on hand in case of an emergency, drug users should prepare for the worst. Ensuring naloxone is on hand in the case of an overdose can mean the difference between life and death.
Is Narcan Expensive?
Narcan kits that come with one or two doses typically cost $140. A person who has medical insurance may not have to pay, depending on the individual insurance policy. Some copays range between $0 and $20, and some insurers under Medicare and Medicaid cover Narcan prescriptions.
A local organization that focuses on helping drug users may be able to provide Narcan for free. Contact local groups that help people become drug-free to see if they offer this service.
What Are The Potential Side Effects of Narcan?
While Narcan has many benefits for those suffering from an overdose, it is not without possible negative effects as well. Like most medications, Narcan has some side effects that can affect some people taking the medication. Unless one has taken Narcan before, it is impossible to predict whether or not someone will have one of these negative side effects.
Possible common side effects of taking Narcan include:
- Nasal inflammation and congestion
- Nasal dryness and swelling
- A headache
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Elevated blood pressure
Babies born to pregnant women taking Narcan may experience withdrawal symptoms. At this time, there is no information on how taking Narcan while nursing may affect a baby.
Those who quit taking Narcan suddenly may also experience withdrawal symptoms.
In certain rare situations, those taking Narcan have reported other potentially serious side effects as well. It is important to understand there’s not substantive proof that side effects resulted from taking Narcan. Potentially serious side effects include low blood pressure, ventricular tachycardia, fibrillation, and cardiac arrest. Patients experiencing these side effects may go into a coma or even die.