Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


April 4th, 2016

Narcan™ (naloxone) is an opiate antidote that saves lives! And, you should know how to use it because someday someone in your family just may need it.
Overdoses from painkillers and heroin, both opioids, are alarmingly on the rise in the United States. Opioids include heroin and prescription pain pills like morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone and Vicodin. When a person is overdosing on an opioid, breathing can slow down or stop, and it can be very hard to wake them from this state.

20160404_142120Who is at risk for overdose? Your grandmother who just had a knee replacement, your aunt who is dealing with chronic back pain, your teenage son or daughter who first takes painkillers while recovering from a sports injury. The list can go on and on. Sadly, painkillers are prescribed at alarming rates, and long-term use leads to addiction. These painkillers are often the gateway drug for heroin.

On Tuesday, President Obama announced a series of initiatives aimed at curbing America’s opioid addiction epidemic. The steps he outlined would make it easier to obtain medication-based treatment, expand Medicaid coverage and increase the availability of a drug that saves people from overdoses.

Narcan is a drug that can save people from overdosing. It can be delivered in the nostrils with the use of a mucosal atomization device (MAD) or intramuscularly with a syringe. Narcan is a non-patient specific prescription that is distributed through an authorized agency, such as a local health department, and given to individuals who have been trained in opioid overdose recognition and response consistent with that agencies registration with their state.

What does Narcan do? Simply, Narcan knocks the opioids out of the opiate receptors in the brain. Tom Ferraro, professor of biomedical sciences at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, N.J. told Newsworks in an online article published in 2014 that it essentially “blocks the ability of opioids to do what they do at the molecular level.”
Ferrero went on in the article to explain, “The proteins in your brain have special receptors that, when unlocked, release certain biochemical reactions. Think of opioids, like heroin, as being special keys, says Ferraro. When they get in your brain, they seek out those receptors, ‘latch on’ and unlock the lock. When the drug opens and closes that lock repeatedly, it ‘triggers a cascade of biochemistry inside that particular cell.’” He says, “this is the basic mechanism of being high. The heroin repeatedly unlocks the lock, releasing euphoria, pain relief and addiction from that cell.”

Narcan, on the other hand, cannot be used to get a person high, and if given to an individual who has not taken opioids, it will not have any effect on them. For more information on Narcan visit FDA.gov

Obama Pushes For More Treatment for Opioid Addiction
CVS to Sell Heroin OD Reversal Drug Narcan in More Pharmacies
The overdose ‘antidote’: how Narcan works

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription.

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