In case you missed it, we teamed up with Walgreens for an informational Facebook Live in response to the U.S. Surgeon General’s call for all Americans to begin carrying naloxone. It’s an effective and timely idea, as the Department of Public Health (DPH) estimates that there are four to six overdoses a day in Massachusetts. We understand that there are still stigmas attached to addiction and the medications that help treat it, and many people don’t fully understand what it is, let alone how to use it and where to get it. Those realities make educating people about addiction and naloxone all the more important.
Below is a recap if you missed it. You can still watch the entire live feed featuring our own VP of Clinical Development Dr. Romas Buivydas and Program Director Heidi DiRoberto and Walgreens pharmacist Samantha Picking by clicking here.
What is naloxone?
Naloxone, or commonly known by its brand name Narcan, is a generally available medication administered to reverse the effects of a potentially fatal opioid overdose. Opioids are agonists, designed to attach to receptors in the brain. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means that it blocks and removes the opioids from the receptors.
The medication works for any opioid, including Fentanyl and methadone, and comes in injectable and nasal spray forms. In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health has reported a five percent decrease for overdose deaths. However, there’s a large number of unreported deaths which often aren’t linked to an overdose for several months following an autopsy. While experts in the field are optimistic about these numbers, they caution people against thinking that the epidemic is almost over.
Where to get it
Massachusetts has issued a standing order for naloxone. That means, anyone can walk into any pharmacy (such as Walgreens) across the state and request the drug without a prescription. Cost and copays vary based on one’s insurance plan, including MassHealth.
Spectrum Health Systems and the New England Recovery Center issue nasal naloxone kits to clients, loved ones and visitors at any of our facilities.
What to do and how to use it
When you approach someone who you think may be overdosing, first and foremost, call 911. While you’re waiting for EMTs to arrive, look for the signs that someone is suffering from an overdose – slowed respiration and difficulty breathing, inability to rouse, trouble speaking, dilated pupils and bluish colored skin. If they are breathing, watch to see if their respirations are slowing down and getting shorter. Conduct sternum or upper lip rubs first (use your knuckles to rub the bone hard, this may cause them to wake up). If they don’t respond, get out your naloxone.
To administer nasal naloxone, peel back the package to remove the device, place and hold the tip of the nozzle in either nostril until your fingers touch the bottom of their nose, and press the plunger firmly to release the dose into their nose.
Most overdoses occur between 15 minutes to three hours after the person has used drugs. Often, someone will need multiple doses of naloxone, especially if they have built up a tolerance for the drug. Naloxone won’t work on someone who is not overdosing and there will be no effect from taking the drug in this instance.
After they wake up, make sure you stay with them until the EMTs and police have arrived. People can return to an overdose state and will need more help. Talk to them, keep them awake and interacting with you.
Much like carrying an EpiPen, people can carry naloxone in purses, pockets, backpacks, etc. In the event you find someone who has overdosed, having the drug with you will be instrumental in saving their life. There is even a free app called Narcan Now which provides step-by-step instructions on how to administer the drug, what symptoms to look for, and other resources.
This epidemic is far reaching, and it’s easily possible for anyone to come across a person who is overdosing. Talk to your local pharmacist today about naloxone.
For more information about Spectrum Health Systems and our treatment offerings, visit www.SpectrumHealthSystems.org.