Naloxone, also referred to by its brand name, Narcan, is an opioid antagonist that has been used by paramedics for decades as a method of reversing opioid overdoses. It comes in both injectable and intranasal forms. More recently, though, we have seen an increase in harm reductionists distributing naloxone among drug users for “at home” use in an effort to mitigate the unprecedented number of opioid overdose deaths we have seen in the United States.
The idea is that if a group of people are using opioids together and have naloxone on hand, and one of those people overdoses, a friend will be able to administer naloxone and hopefully prevent an overdose death. Those living with roommates and family members who are using opioids are also suggested to keep naloxone on hand in case of an overdose.
As we have mentioned in previous blog posts, the rise of black market fentanyl has led to a significant increase in opioid overdose deaths. This phenomenon has augmented the urgency for harm reductionists promoting and distributing naloxone.
An article in The Atlantic outlines the numbers when it comes to naloxone use. In 2018 paramedics in San Francisco administered naloxone to 1,647 people (up from 980 two years earlier). According to self-reported data from Bay Area overdose prevention program, DOPE Project, in that same year 1,658 naloxone-induced overdose reversals occurred at the hands of laypeople. It has become clear that putting naloxone in the hands of drug users is just as important as making it available to emergency responders. In reality, other drug users are going to be the first to witness someone overdose, and the less time between loss of consciousness and naloxone administration the better.
Naloxone is available without a prescription at many pharmacies and syringe exchange programs. For more information on how to get naloxone where you live visit our friends at www.naloxoneforall.org.