How Naloxone Saves Lives

How Naloxone Saves Lives

Naloxone is a medicine used to reverse the effects of heroin and other narcotics

Naloxone is a narcotic antagonist used to reverse the side effects of narcotic drugs. Naloxone has been used for many years by doctors in emergency rooms to reverse the effects of a drug overdose. Naloxone works by blocking the effects of opioid drugs by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain used by heroin and prescription pain killers. People suffering from heroin or opioid overdose need immediate intervention in order to prevent certain death. When administered properly and at the right time, Naloxone has been proven to save lives.

How Naloxone Works

Opium and other opioid drugs work in the central nervous system and slow breathing. When a person takes too much of an opioid drug, breathing can stop altogether and result in death. Naloxone counteracts the effects of too much opioid in the bloodstream within minutes of an overdose. Naloxone works with the following common opiate types:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Methadone
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Codeine
  • Hydromorphone
  • Bubrenorphine

The Harm Reduction Coalition categorizes Naloxone as an opioid antagonist because it counters the depression of the central nervous system. The brain has many opioid receptors. During an overdose, too much of an opioid drug fits into too many brain receptors and the central nervous system shuts down. When Naloxone is administered it essentially knocks the opioid off of the receptors for a short amount of time, allowing the body to once again breathe normally. Naloxone responds to other opioids in this way because it has a stronger affinity to opioid receptors than other drugs. If there are no opioids in a person’s system, Naloxone will have no effect on him or her. This means Naloxone has no risk of becoming habit forming.

Naloxone Administration

In the past, Naloxone was given only by a physician in an emergency room. But now the drug is often administered by trained laypeople. This way someone who struggles with an opioid addiction can receive treatment for an overdose from a loved one or other care giver without having to wait until he or she gets to a hospital. This dramatically increases the survival rate for opioid overdose victims. Naloxone is administered by injection in the muscle, vein or under the skin. It can also be sprayed into the nose. The effects of the drug last approximately 20 to 30 minutes. In most cases, this provides enough time for the overdose victim to get to a proper medical facility for treatment.

Rising Overdose Rates

In the last few years drug overdose rates have risen dramatically. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 669,000 Americans used heroin annually. This is almost twice as many as in the 2007 study. Heroin-related deaths also doubled between 2006 and 2010. Because of this dramatic increase in the abuse of heroin and others like it, Naloxone is more important that ever in the fight to save lives.

Naloxone Controversy

Although Naloxone is considered a cost-effective and simple treatment when it comes to preventing death from overdose, there are still many states that have yet to pass legislation to make it easily accessible to families and caregivers of opioid addicts. Until the past few years, Naloxone was given only when breathing had stopped, and only then in an emergency-room situation. Due the rise in death from overdose, some states have removed the barriers to those who need access to the drug. Since 2013, Virginia, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Washington state and the District of Columbia have passed laws related to the drug. These laws range in scope and provide everything from training and proper dosing techniques to first responders, to providing legal protection to family members and others administering the drug to another person.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that over 15,000 people die each year in the United States from drug overdose. And this number is steadily rising. Preventing death from overdose is just part of what is needed when it comes to treating addiction. But making drugs like Naloxone accessible to first responders, family members and other care givers can provide heroin and opioid addicts the chance to survive and receive the treatment they need.

Finding Help for Addiction

Heroin and other opioids are highly addictive drugs that produce feelings of euphoria while slowing the central nervous system. Prescription opioids are some of the most widely-prescribed and widely-abused drugs in the United States. An overdose of opioids can cause breathing to stop, resulting in death. Getting immediate help from Naloxone can mean the difference between life and death. If you or a loved one struggles with opioid or heroin addiction, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.