During the opioid epidemic, certain substances have existed to prevent instances of tragedy and assist in the recovery process. Despite the record-breaking year for overdoses in 2021, the numbers would have been even more staggering if it wasn’t for one substance in particular.
Narcan is a medication that works by reversing the effects of an opioid overdose. This drug has saved countless amounts of lives since its widespread distribution.
Originally only available with a prescription and housed on emergency medical service vehicles and hospitals, Narcan is widely available free of charge for anyone who requires it. It’s also kept on hand at a number of different businesses and publically frequented locations.
Because of the intensity of the types of opioids currently marketed and sold on the streets, it’s important to be aware of the effectiveness and longevity of Narcan. How long does Narcan last, and how does it work?
How Does Narcan Work?
Narcan works in a very unique way. When users are experiencing the side effects associated with an overdose, time is of the essence.
When Narcan is administered, it first knocks all opioids from the receptors in the body. It then binds to the receptors, blocking the receptors from binding with opioids again.
This also blocks the effects of any additional opioids ingested for a certain amount of time.
How Long Does Narcan Last?
Manufacturers of Narcan state that the product begins to work within three to eight minutes. However, many users have reported instant results as soon as the medication is administered.
The window of effectiveness is between 30 and 80 minutes. During this window, Narcan will continue to bind opioids and block the effects of any additional opioids ingested during this time.
However, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of consuming additional opioids.
Dangers of Mixing Opioids and Narcan
Individuals who are administered Narcan should still be admitted to the emergency room for treatment. Because Narcan can cause opioid withdrawal, it can lead to an intense craving for additional opioids.
If users give in to these cravings, the chances of overdose increase significantly. Because opioids are effective for up to 12 hours and Narcan only 30 minutes, the chances of overdose continue after the Narcan wears off.
This means that even though the effects of the opioids may not be felt if taken while Narcan is still active, an overdose could still occur after. Users must be aware of the presence of this danger to avoid a second overdose.
If the user does not go to the emergency room, it’s important to have additional doses of Narcan available.
When someone you know has an issue with opioid abuse, it’s important to be aware of the different types of Narcan and how they’re administered. The following section highlights the various forms of this emergency medication.
Types of Narcan
Currently, there are three FDA-approved types of Narcan. They’re each administered in different ways. It’s critical to understand how they’re properly administered to ensure the most effective results.
The injectable form of Narcan is composed of a kit that includes one liquid dose of the drug and a syringe to complete the injection. The following steps explain how to administer the dose.
- Take the cap off of the vial holding the liquid. Turn the vial upside down and insert the syringe through the rubber seal. Pull back the plunger and make sure liquid fills the syringe and not air.
- Push the needle directly into the shoulder muscle of the user. Press down on the plunger and empty the syringe. Remove the needle.
- If the person does not respond within one-to-two minutes, administer a second dose.
The Narcan auto-injector is administered in a similar manner.
- Inspect the liquid and holding area to make sure the liquid isn’t discolored and no foreign objects are present.
- Place the actuator on the fatty area of the upper thigh and press down.
- Once the injection is complete, the base will lock, and a red indicator will appear through the viewing window.
Auto-injectors contain an electronic voice system that gives directions. Even if the voice instruction system doesn’t work, the device will still administer the injection.
The inhaler is an easy-to-administer mist that’s given through the nasal passage.
- Remove the cap from the inhaler and place the index and middle fingers at the base of the end that goes into the nostrils. Hold the thumb on the plunger.
- Insert the tip into the nostril and press down on the plunger fully, giving the full dose.
- After three seconds, remove the tip from the nostrils.
- If you don’t notice a response after two minutes, administer subsequent doses.
It’s important that individuals remain awake after you administer the Narcan until paramedics arrive. Talk to them and make sure they remain aware, not allowing them to go unconscious or fall asleep.
Understanding the signs of an overdose is critical for the timely administration of Narcan.
Signs of an Opioid Overdose Indicating the Need for Narcan
It’s vital to understand the signs exhibited when individuals suffer from an overdose. The following list contains the most common signs:
- Depressed breathing
- Pinpoint pupils
- Decreased heart rate
- Blueish or purple tint to the lips
How Long Until Narcan Begins Working?
Narcan normally takes between one and three minutes to begin working. Once you notice signs of an overdose, it’s important not to wait any longer than three minutes to begin administration. It only takes a short time for individuals to suffer permanent brain injuries from a lack of oxygen.
After the initial administration, administer a second dose if there’s no response. Subsequent doses may be administered with no health risks beyond precipitated withdrawal.
Sources and Costs of Narcan without a Prescription
Individuals without a prescription or insurance may purchase Narcan at any location with a pharmacy. This includes grocery stores and other major retail pharmacies.
The average price for a package with two 4 mg doses of Narcan included is between $40 and $50. However, individuals with insurance (including Medicaid) may be able to obtain the medication for little to no cost.
Seeking Treatment After Narcan Administration
After an overdose, it’s critical for individuals to seek treatment for opioid abuse disorder. Otherwise, they run the risk of experiencing additional overdoses.
Regardless of the presence of Narcan, eventually, a user’s luck can run out. There are only two ultimate endings for users that don’t receive treatment for opioid abuse disorder, and with each overdose, users inch closer to one of these endings.
Treatment options include medically-assisted detox, inpatient and outpatient treatment, and preparation for aftercare services. Medically-assisted detox includes a stay under 24-hour medical supervision during the detox period.
Clients receive medication to ease the discomfort of withdrawal and the attention of medical staff to ensure stability. After medically-assisted detox, clients can transition to inpatient treatment.
The Power of Personalized Opiate Treatment
Clients will receive a personalized treatment plan during inpatient treatment to give them the best odds for long-term recovery. This will include daily meetings with mental health and substance abuse counselors to participate in the most appropriate form of treatment.
This treatment may consist of CBT, dual-diagnosis treatment, or other behavioral health methods. Group recovery sessions are also effective during this level of treatment.
Aftercare services include a combination of continued mental health services, consistent attendance in group recovery meetings, and a strong support system. The support system should consist of family members, loved ones, and other people close to the client.
Long-term Recovery Is Possible from Opioids
Long-term recovery is possible from opioids with the right treatment team at your side. Circle of Hope specializes in assisting clients with long-term recovery from opioid abuse disorder by incorporating all of the treatment elements mentioned above.
Contact a member of our compassionate Admissions staff today for more information on how we can help you recover from your own challenges with opiate abuse. Your odds of defeating opioids are much higher when you’re not alone. Call us today.
How effective is Narcan?
Narcan is incredibly effective when administered during cases of overdose. Reports have indicated that Narcan is nearly 95% effective in bringing individuals back to a state of normal breathing.
Will I get sick if I receive a Narcan dose??
It’s possible that you’ll experience withdrawal after receiving a dose of Narcan. The more dependent you are on opioids, the higher the odds of experiencing withdrawal. Some of the most common symptoms experienced during this period include the following:
- Body aches
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
Is Narcan dangerous for a sober person to take?
No, Narcan has no effect when taken by an individual who isn’t under the influence of opioids.
Does Narcan work against other drug overdoses?
Narcan is not effective against other drugs during an overdose. If individuals receive Narcan during an overdose of other substances, there will be no effect at all.
Can Narcan be used to treat opioid-induced constipation?
Narcan isn’t prescribed to treat opioid-induced constipation. Additionally, individuals shouldn’t attempt to use Narcan to self-medicate for this condition.
However, other forms of naloxone (the active ingredient in Narcan) have been used against opioid-induced constipation. During studies, oral naloxone was found to be more effective at treating this form of constipation than placebos.
During the test, users who ingested oral naloxone had more bowel movements than individuals who didn’t ingest the medication. Additional over-the-counter medications are also effective in treating this condition.
Can you take Suboxone after you take Narcan?
You should wait until you’ve been treated by medical professionals to ingest any further medications. Although naloxone is one of the active ingredients in Suboxone, you should still be aware of the risks and potential complications when mixing other medications with Narcan.
Suboxone is an opioid, and the effects won’t be experienced after ingesting Suboxone. Uses may be tempted to ingest Suboxone to eliminate the symptoms of withdrawal; however, the ingestion could prove to be a waste if the Narcan hasn’t completely worn off.
Can Suboxone be taken by pregnant women?
Currently, there is no hard evidence or research to support whether Suboxone is safe for women who are pregnant. There doesn’t seem to be any link between pregnancy and risk of injury with Suboxone, but the jury is still out.
In the past, it was generally considered safer to give pregnant women methadone. However, there seems to be more of a trend in giving expectant mothers Suboxone. There aren’t any widespread reports or case patterns that have emerged when dosing pregnant women with Suboxone, but without medical research, there can’t be any guarantees.
Pregnant women should always consult with their physicians before taking anything for withdrawal or participating in detox.