According to data released in December 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the US there were more than 52,000 deaths reported as a result of a drug overdose in 2015. Of those deaths, 33,091 (63.1%) involved opioids such as prescription pain relievers or heroin. In all, more than 300,000 Americans have lost their lives to an opioid overdose since 2000.
Opioid prescribing continues to fuel the epidemic. Today, nearly half of all US opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription and In 2015, more than 15,000 people died from overdoses specifically involving opioids that had been prescribed.
The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include:
- Oxycodone (such as OxyContin®)
- Hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®)
As the opioid problem reaches catastrophic levels, the medical industry works tirelessly to develop products which help reverse the fatal effects of opioids. Narcan® Nasal Spray is the first and only FDA-approved nasal form of naxolone HCI which is used for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose of which respiratory or central nervous system depression are the main overdose indicators.
How Narcan® works
Narcan contains naloxone hydrochloride, which blocks and counteracts the life-threatening effects – specifically respiratory depression – of opioids in times of overdose. Naxolone is a pure opioid antagonist and works by reversing the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system caused by opioids. Research suggests that most accidental overdoses occur within the home, so the spray’s ease of use means both emergency personnel and friends or family members can administer the medication.
Taken via the nose, Narcan® releases naloxone molecules immediately which then travel up to the brain. The molecules attach themselves to receptor sites and displace the opioid molecules to reverse their effects.
The effect of naloxone last about half an hour to an hour, although multiple doses may be required as the duration of action of most opioids is greater than that of naloxone.
When it comes to the initial dosing, 1 spray delivered by intranasal administration delivers 4 mg of naloxone HCl Dosage Modifications for the reversal of respiratory depression but higher doses of naloxone may be repeated or required.
How to administer Narcan®
Narcan® Nasal Spray dose should be sprayed into the nose while the person is lying on his or her back. If you are administering the Narcan® nasal spray dose to another person, read all instructions provided with this medicine and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
Be sure you know how to recognise the signs of an opioid overdose in the person you are caring for.
Look out for:
- Slowed breathing, or no breathing;
- Small pupils in the eyes;
- Slow heartbeats; or
- Extreme drowsiness, especially if you are unable to wake the person from sleep.
After admistering this Narcan® nasal spray dose, stay with the person and watch for more signs of overdose. You may need to give another dose every 2 to 3 minutes until emergency help arrives.
It is important to note that Narcan® is an immediate, but temporary measure and therefore cannot to be used as an alternative to seeking medical help in the event of an opioid overdose. The spray is the first step to recovery after an overdose and immediate medical attention is advised thereafter.
Administering Narcan® to opioid-dependent individuals may cause side effects and symptoms commonly associated with acute opioid withdrawal: restlessness, agitation, nausea, vomiting, a fast heart rate, and sweating. To prevent this, small doses every few minutes can be given until the desired effect is reached. In those with previous heart disease or taking medications that negatively affect the heart, further heart problems may occur.
To make sure the spray is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have cardiovascular disease.
It is not known whether Narcan® Nasal Spray will harm an unborn baby or pass into breast back, so it is advised for those who are either pregnant or breastfeeding to tell their doctor.
You should not be treated with Narcan® Nasal Spray if you are allergic to naloxone.
- Administer Narcan® Nasal Spray dose in accordance with the instructions – follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not use this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.
- Seek emergency medical assistance as soon as possible.
- If the person is unresponsive, or responds but relapses into respiratory depression before the emergency services arrive, administer another dose in alternate nostrils.
- If there is still no response and additional doses are available, administer additional doses every 2-3 minutes using a new spray with each dose until emergency medical assistance arrives.
- Additional supportive and/or resuscitative measures may be helpful while awaiting emergency medical assistance.
- Narcan spray pump contains enough naloxone for one use only. Throw away after one use, even if there is still some medicine left in the pump after using a dose.
Narcan nasal spray is not a substitute for emergency medical care.