Naloxone: Overdose-Reversal Medicine

Overdose-reversal medicine does not exist for all types of drug overdoses. For example, alcohol poisoning is not reversible via medicine, and other than stomach pumping and/or induced vomiting, cannot be stopped once set in. LSD overdoses cannot necessarily be reversed via medicine, however benzodiazepines (strong sedatives) have been shown to reduce agitation associated with having them. Cocaine overdoses, while not reversible, may be treated with benzodiazepines, as they lower the heartrate.

Opiate overdoses, however, are reversible via medicine. A small sigh of relief since they account for approximately 30,000 deaths annually, and are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Naloxone (marketed as Narcan) is essentially the wonder-drug in the world of unfortunately inevitable opiate overdoses.

What is Naloxone?

naloxoneIn the late 1950s and early 1960s, a lab technician named Jack Fishman was working in New York City for a private employer. He invented naloxone originally as a product meant to prevent constipation caused by opiate use. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the opioid receptors in the brain, negating the effects of the opiate altogether. Before long it was “standard treatment for opioid overdose in every ambulance and emergency room across the country.”

Standardized under the name Narcan, it has reversed over 20,000 overdoses since 1996 in the United States alone. Police began carrying Naloxone around 2010, and its effectiveness has been proven. During the 2014 Boston Red Sox World Series parade in downtown, Quincy police saved a 20-year-old woman from overdosing on heroin. Boston actually serves as an excellent example of Naloxone’s effectiveness. Over four years, Boston police reversed 211 overdoses from 221 times administered. That’s a success rate of over 95%.

Saving Lives

In 2014, the FDA approved Evzio, which is essentially Naloxone in a hand-held auto-injecting device. Previously, it had to be administered manually into the blood. Aside from being much easier to administer, Evzio is faster-acting since it is administered so quickly. Then, in 2015, the FDA approved Narcan nasal spray, making the overdose reversal process that much simpler. Both have been proven to be 100% effective.

Another giant step in the right direction was taken in 2015. The Clinton Foundation and Adapt Pharma, the manufacturer of Narcan, announced that each and every high school in the country could receive an overdose reversal kit free of charge.

Narcan saves, but isn’t the answer.

Take the case of Michael Meeney as a solid example of Narcan not being the complete solution. On February 18 of this year, Meeney shot heroin on a public bus in Philadelphia. He shortly thereafter overdoses, falling out of his seat and collapsing to the ground. Next thing, a police officer administers Narcan. Michael Meeney is saved.

Once saved, Meeney is arrested for the four bags of heroin on his body. Within weeks, Meeney suffered from severe withdrawal in prison. He has been in and out of jail for drugs and/or failure to appear since. Narcan can save your life from a heroin overdose, but only beating heroin can save you from heroin. If you or a loved one is struggling with a heroin problem speak to a medical professional or call us today to speak to a addiction treatment specialist.