Resources & Education

May 5th, 2016

Is Narcan a Lifesaver or a Safety Net?

Rettungsring vor blauem HimmelThe statistics are staggering. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In 2014 alone, over 47,000 lethal drug overdoses occurred, with almost over 10,500 deaths coming as the result of heroin overdoses specifically. The overdose prevention drug Narcan, the brand name for the drug Naloxone, has emerged as a lifesaving tool that is helping to lower the total number of overdose deaths each year. Narcan helps to reverse the effects of heroin and prescription opiates, such as OxyContin, by blocking opioid receptors in the brain. Dispensed as either an injection or a nasal spray, Narcan works almost immediately. It is commonly used by emergency responders to save the lives of overdose patients.

As a result of its proven effectiveness, a growing number of commercial pharmacies are now beginning to stock their shelves with Narcan. The cost to purchase Narcan over the counter is approximately $50 and there are currently no limits to the number of individual purchases. Most purchasers are friends and family members of addicts who fear losing their loved one to an overdose.

While Narcan has proven effective in saving lives, some worry that the drug is doing more to enable dangerous behavior than to help cure the heroin overdose epidemic. Both sides of the argument should be considered as health care workers, law enforcers, and addiction treatment specialists work to better understand the benefits and risks of this opiate antidote.

Narcan as a Lifesaving Tool
For many who advocate for continued use of Narcan, the potential to save lives is the only factor to consider. Narcan has proven effective in reversing the effects of opiates, and in saving the lives of addicts who would have otherwise died from an overdose. For thousands of Americans battling addiction, the risk of overdose is a reality they may be too blind to see. The mental and physical addiction to opiates leaves many addicts unable to comprehend the danger in which they are putting their lives. Many former addicts, however, have given testimony that it was a near death experience and Narcan-induced revival that finally put them on the path to recovery. For many who advocate for the value of Narcan, they point to stories of those who turned to recovery after Narcan pulled them back from the edge of death, as part of the drug’s powerful ability to save lives.

Narcan as a Safety Net
On the other side of the argument are those who fear that Narcan is enabling dangerous behavior. Those who advocate against the drug look to the number of heroin addicts that have received multiple Narcan treatments, and continued to regularly use opiates, as one of the primary indicators that Narcan use is not an effective way to stem the opiate addiction epidemic. Others argue that addicts rely too heavily on the availability of Narcan, and fail to realize that in the event they overdose while alone, there will be no one to administer the drug, and they will not recover.

The Importance of Addiction Recovery and Treatment
Regardless of where they fall in the debate on Narcan, all experts agree that the most important factor for successful addiction recovery is the commitment of the addict to an addiction recovery and treatment plan. If you or a loved one are battling an addiction to prescription pain killers, heroin, or any other prescription or illicit drug, know that there are support systems in place to help you begin the steps toward withdrawal and recovery.

For more information of drug addiction treatment options in Western New York or free opiate overdose prevention training, contact the addiction recovery experts at Horizon Health Services today at 716.831.1800.

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