Opioids are a type of chemical, often used in prescription medicines and illegal drugs, that can help people who are in pain. However, opioid prescriptions can be dangerous if they are not used the way a doctor or pharmacist advises you to use them, or if too much of the medication is taken at one time. Taking too much of a medication at one time is called an overdose. We can decrease overdose deaths by understanding what an overdose is, knowing how to stop an overdose from happening, and learning how to safely store medicine.
Naloxone Stops Overdose
What is Naloxone? Naloxone is a medicine that stops an opioid overdose. It works quickly to help a person who was having trouble breathing due to an overdose to be able to breathe again. Even if opioids are mixed with other medicines or illegal drugs, naloxone can still work. The closer to when an overdose occurs the more likely naloxone can be used to help save someone. So, if you think someone you know may have overdosed, call 9-1-1 and administer naloxone.
Anyone can overdose. One of the best ways for family and friends to prevent death from an overdose is naloxone, a medicine that can stop an overdose. Naloxone can work in minutes to stop an overdose and save a life.
- Naloxone is safe.
- Naloxone does not cause bad reactions to a person’s health.
- Most types of naloxone can be given by anyone.
After you give someone naloxone, be sure to get help from medical professionals. If someone seems to be experiencing a drug overdose, call 9-1-1 to help get the person to the hospital so they can see a doctor as soon as possible.
There are several types of naloxone that you can use to help someone having an overdose.
- Naloxone Nasal Atomizer comes in the form of a kit. There are three pieces: a tube, the bottle of naloxone, and an atomizer (a cone that is put into a person’s nose). After the three pieces are put together, the atomizer is placed in the person’s nose. As the bottle of naloxone is pushed into the tube, the naloxone is sprayed as a mist into the person’s nose.
- Naloxone Nose Spray, is another type of nose spray but it does not have to be assembled before use. To learn more, visit https://www.narcan.com/.
- Injectable Naloxone comes in a single dose that is injected into the person’s thigh, shoulder, or bottom. The shot can be given through the person’s clothing.
- Autoinjector Naloxone is another injectable version which is packaged in a small box with audio-recorded instructions which explain how to administer the medicine. This type of naloxone is offered by many companies and is referred to by its brand name (an example is Evzio).
Myth vs. Fact
As naloxone has become more accessible, people have wanted to learn more about it. Sometimes the information shared is not accurate though. It’s important to understand the difference between the myths and facts about naloxone.
MYTH: Because naloxone is easier to get, more people will use drugs and overdose.
FACT: Using naloxone to stop a drug overdose gives a person a second chance to live. When a person has been saved from an overdose, they can receive medical attention for their illness. After an overdose, a person has access to doctors and other health care providers who are able to help and support them. More support means a chance to have a better life.
MYTH: Naloxone is another drug that can be misused and hurt people.
FACT: Naloxone is safe and stops overdoses. There is no way for naloxone to be used in a way that hurts anyone. Naloxone cannot be misused to get high. Naloxone, when used, cannot cause an individual to go into withdrawal for opioids immediately. If a person who is not overdosing is given naloxone, nothing harmful will happen to them.
MYTH: Naloxone can be used before drug use to prevent or stop an overdose.
FACT: Naloxone cannot be used before drug use to stop an overdose. Naloxone only works after an overdose starts.
Where can I get Naloxone?
West Virginia has a “standing order,” which means you can go to a pharmacy and ask for naloxone without seeing a doctor first. You do not need a prescription and an insurance company will often help pay for the medicine. You can check with your insurance company to know if you will have to pay for the naloxone when you get it from the pharmacy, or if your insurance will cover the cost.
There are also West Virginia community organizations that give out free naloxone nose spray and intramuscular naloxone. Between October 2019 and November 2020, these organizations gave out more than 55,700 free pieces of naloxone. When distributing naloxone, the organization members teach when it should be used as well as how to use it to prevent an overdose.
Naloxone distribution and training are available in WV to provide individuals in active addiction and their friends and family with life-saving resources. See the list of resources here (Naloxone Distribution). Also, for additional information in obtaining naloxone to distribute within your facility, you may contact Lindsay Acree, PharmD (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Learn How to Use Naloxone
Dr. Lindsey Acree at the University of Charleston may be contacted to request naloxone or training on naloxone administration at email@example.com.
Learn Where to Keep Naloxone
If naloxone is kept at a temperature that is too hot or too cold, the medicine starts to breakdown and will not work as well as if it was stored following the directions on the box. Keeping naloxone at the right temperature means that there will be enough medicine in the bottle to stop an overdose. Different types of naloxone might have to be kept at different temperatures. The box provides instructions on storage to keep the naloxone at its freshest and also lists the expiration date.
Most naloxone needs to be kept at room temperature, away from light and in the box or plastic it came in. If the date on the box has only a month and year, the naloxone can be used until the last day of the month.
If naloxone is kept in a vehicle, call the West Virginia Poison Center before using it. The Poison Center will be able to tell you if the naloxone is still safe to use or if it should be thrown away.
The West Virginia Poison Center: 1-800-222-1222