understanding Naloxone

Understanding Naloxone: The Opioid Reversal Drug that Saves Lives

28 Mar 2023

According to the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), over 130 people die every day in the US from opioid overdose, and the economic burden of the crisis is estimated to be over $78 billion per year. One of the most effective agents for opioid overdose treatment we use at Memorial Village Emergency Room is Narcan®.

Narcan is used in our emergency room in Houston to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It is a safe and effective drug for opioid overdoses as it has no side effects, even in people having no opiates in their system.

What Is Narcan And How Does It Work?

Opioids, such as heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers, bind to receptors in neurons of the brain and spinal cord called opioid receptors. When opioids bind to these receptors, they can cause several effects, including pain relief, drowsiness, slowed breathing, and a sense of euphoria.

However, when someone takes too much of an opioid or combines opioids with other drugs, they may experience an overdose, which can be life-threatening.

Narcan, chemically called Naloxone, is an opioid receptor antagonist. In other words, it binds to the same opioid receptors more intensely. When Narcan is administered, it displaces the opioids from the receptors and blocks their effects. It can quickly reverse the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system, allowing the person to breathe more easily and potentially saving their life.

Consequently, Naloxone use in emergency care services at our ER near you is common when an opioid overdose is suspected.

What Happens If Narcan Is Given To A Patient Not Overdosing On Opiates?

As Narcan is such a powerful medication, there are some concerns about what might happen if given to someone who doesn’t need it. Thankfully, a Narcan injection is safe for patients who either don’t have opiates in their system or are not overdosing. While the patients may experience uncomfortable side effects, they are generally not life-threatening.

If someone with no opiates in their system receives Narcan, they may experience side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and confusion.

On the other hand, if someone who has taken opioids but is not experiencing an overdose is given Narcan, the effects can be more unpredictable. In some cases, Narcan drug interactions with opiates may cause the person to immediately go into withdrawal, which can be very uncomfortable but is generally not life-threatening.

Withdrawal symptoms can include-

  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety

If someone has taken a high dose of opioids and is given Narcan too quickly or in too high an amount, it can cause them to go into severe withdrawal, which can be dangerous.

It is also important to note that Narcan is not a cure for opioid addiction. While it can be a life-saving medication in cases of overdose, it does not treat the underlying addiction.

Please visit Memorial Village Emergency Room to learn more about Narcan and how it can save lives following an opioid overdose.

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