CVS stores in Ohio will begin to sell Narcan (Naloxone) over the counter. Narcan is a medication that is used by emergency medical providers to reverse an overdose of opioid-based drugs. The potential life-saving medication is normally only available with a prescription. AIDS Resource Center Ohio Chief Operating Officer Peggy Anderson discusses how selling Narcan over the counter can be beneficial.
“If we lose them to an overdose then we have lost an opportunity to have a productive life in the future.”
— Local 12/WKRC-TV (@Local12) February 1, 2016
Narcan is mostly administered by people who work on ambulances. When a call for an overdose comes in, ambulances are normally first on the scene. Calls for overdoses in larger cities can happen multiple times a day. These types of calls tend to take time and may occur where an ambulance is not in service. In Ohio alone, Narcan was administered to overdose patients over 15,000 times in 2014. Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Teresa Long talks about how often ambulances in Ohio deal with patients that have overdosed on heroin or other opiates.
“We know this is a daily thing. Maybe 6, 7, 8 times a day our Columbus EMS are administering that and that’s only if they get there and get to the place at the right time.”
For the most part, patients who overdose are discovered by family members. The only tool that a family member has at their disposal to help their loved one is to call 911. Sometimes, the first reaction is not to call but to try and revive them by using other methods. Family members sometimes are fearful that their family member will be arrested for using drugs.
How Does Narcan Work?
Narcan works by blocking the receptors in the brain where opioids bind. Think of a lock and a key. The receptors in the brain where opioids bind are the lock and the opioids are the key. Narcan has the same structure as opioids, so it fits the lock perfectly. By blocking the opioid receptor, no other opioids can bind to it. If binding does not take place, the drug’s effect never happens. The results from Narcan are almost instantaneous.
“It’s able to, just like morphine, bind, but it doesn’t unlock. So it attaches but it’s not able to trigger the cascade of effects inside the cell.”
Narcan is a drug that has minimal side effects. The only real downside of Narcan is that it immediately puts the patient into opiate withdrawal. Matthew Salzman, who is a doctor and toxicologist, commented on the withdrawal that an overdose patient will experience when given Narcan.
“For most patients, it’s not a life threatening illness. It’s very uncomfortable. There’s a lot of vomiting and diarrhea, sweatiness, a general feeling of not well. But for older patients who are on chronic opioid therapy, if you give them a high dose of nalaxone, you can actually put significant stress on the body by taking away all that essentially pain management, that could have adverse events happen, like heart attacks.”
Yesterday, the Inquisitr covered a story about President Obama asking for $1 billion to help drug treatment centers deal with patients who are addicted to opioids. Opioid addiction impacts over two million people in the United States alone. One of the uses for the federal money will be to train doctors in the use of a medication called suboxone. Suboxone is a drug that also functions on the opioid receptors in the brain to allow a patient to begin to wean themselves off of opiates. Part of the chemical makeup of suboxone is naloxone (Narcan).
Do you think selling Narcan over the counter is a good idea?
[Photo by Mel Evans/AP]