Naloxone (Narcan) has recently been released in limited proportions for sale over the counter in select pharmacies and states. Selling Narcan over the counter is a bold move in what many are looking at as part of the war against drugs, specifically the war against the opioid epidemic sweeping across our country. Others see it as a cop-out for junkies – a get out of jail free card in the case of an overdose. As with anything, the lines are blurry, and the bottom line is that if lives can be saved and fatal overdoses can be prevented, it is probably a good thing.
What is Narcan?
Narcan (naloxone) is an opiate antidote. Opiates include drugs like heroin, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone, and Vicodin. Taking too much or a combination of any of these drugs can cause an overdose, symptoms of which include the slowing or stopping of breathing, leading to loss of consciousness and even death. Once a person who is ODing is in this state, it is incredibly difficult to wake them up.
Narcan blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose in a patient that has taken too much of a drug. The opiates are essentially knocked out of receptors in the brain, even if the opiate was taken in addition to alcohol or another drug that can further suppress the immune system. After Narcan is administered, the overdosing person should begin to breathe more regularly, and they will be easier to wake. There are no known negative effects of Narcan, and nothing will happen to a person who is not ODing and accidentally takes the drug.
Narcan Over The Counter Is Controversial
There are many people who maintain that the only reason a person would get Narcan over the counter would be if they expected that they or someone they are close with will overdose. In their eyes, it’s a way of prepping for a big Friday night party, and as mentioned earlier in the article, a get out of jail free card.
In the eyes of supporters, Narcan is preventative. For the mothers and fathers who have an addict child, to the wives of an addict husband, and to the child of an addict mother – it is something to have around in the case of an overdose that can prevent death. It isn’t just for addicts – accidental overdose could happen to anyone who has prescription opiates on hand, so in a sense shouldn’t it be sold with every opiate prescription given out?
America’s Opiate Epidemic
It’s no secret that opiates are taking a huge toll on Americans. The U.S. is in the throes of an opiate epidemic and it is a long, sad, and messy road to get out of it. In 2014, 47,055 people died of a drug overdose, making it the number one leading cause of accidental death. It is a problem that is nationwide and is destroying lives regardless of age, race, class, and location. If Narcan can help reduce these numbers and save some lives, why wouldn’t we make it as available as possible?