When someone you love is using opioids, the constant fear of an overdose is debilitating. However, there is a way to keep a sliver of hope at home in your medicine cabinet and it’s called Narcan.
What Is Narcan?
Narcan, also known by its generic name, naloxone, is an opioid overdose reversing drug. Narcan is given as a nasal spray or by an injector. EMS and medical personnel administer Narcan via i.v. In an effort to help save lives, two major companies are making this drug available without a prescription.
Where To Get It?
Narcan Nasal Spray
CVS stores in 46 states sell Narcan nasal spray without a prescription. (Click here for list of states.) The spray comes in a convenient box containing two units (each unit delivers a concentrated 4mg dose of active medication-naloxone hydrochloride- in a .1ml mist) for immediate use if the need arises.
The pros: The nasal spray is easy to use.
- Some training is required to make sure the drug gets to the proper place: you have to turn the body, lay them flat, and position the head correctly.
- Because you may come in contact with someone else’s body fluids, you risk contracting HIV or Hepatitis C.
- These programs are new, and in my research, employees often had less knowledge of their company’s protocol than I did.
To purchase, you must go to CVS’s pharmacy department; this spray isn’t sold on shelves over the counter. Your request has to be processed and sealed by the pharmacist. In other words, you will have to wait just as you would for a prescription. Be calm and persistent. Ask to speak to the pharmacist if you get any push back. Cost in my area without insurance is around $150.
Evzio Narcan Injector
This product is a take-home 2 mg naloxone auto-injection system with voice and visual guidance. Caregivers can take quick action, and voice prompts help everyone stay calm.
- The Evzio injector can pierce clothing, including denim and leather. You risk for contracting Hepatitus C and HIV is lower.
- The injector comes with a trainer and tells you what to do
- It is very easy to use
The cons: The Evzio injector is available in fewer locations, but the number of participating pharmacies is growing.
EVZIO is working with Benzer Pharmacies to help get this product to those in need. To find the participating pharmacy closest to you, visit their website: Benzer Pharmacies.
Like CVS’s program, this is a new endeavor. EVZIO also has a standing protocol to get this medicine out to the people who need it without a prescription. Both of these options are expanding programs, so they may or may not be easy to find in your area. Ask to speak to the pharmacist if necessary.
Who Needs Narcan?
The bigger question is, who doesn’t need Narcan? If you are taking a prescribed opioid pain medicine, have Narcan on hand just in case. If you have a loved one who struggles with substance use disorder, Narcan should be part of your home first-aid kit. Even if your loved one is doing well, relapses are often a part of this disease process.
The biggest contributor to opioid overdoses is polydrug use. Pure heroin, while dangerous and addictive, isn’t a quick killer. People are dying because they are taking heroin cut with fentanyl or carfentanil (an elephant tranquilizer). Drinking alcohol or taking other legally obtained prescriptions while on pain pills also increases the risk of overdosing.
Why Risk Not Having It?
The average response time for a 911 call is nine minutes. Doing their best, rescue workers may arrive five minutes too late. Narcan has no ill effects if used on someone not overdosing from an opioid. People have even reported success when used to revive pets who get into their owners’ meds, although such use is not sanctioned by either manufacturer. Both of these options will take some time and money to have on hand, so don’t wait until the emergency happens. Be prepared.
If you don’t have access to Narcan, please know what to do in an opioid overdose, and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS call 911. Narcan is only a temporary fix. Your loved one still needs medical attention.
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Pam is the author of Co-dependent In The Kitchen, and she's a contributing editor for Recovery Guidance. She's a recovery advocate who likes long walks on the beach and chocolate.