Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of opioid and heroin overdoses, which can save the life of someone who has unintentionally taken more drugs than the body can handle. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, has become more readily available in most U.S. states and is now routinely carried by many emergency professionals and hospitals.
The Rise of Naloxone
Initially, public debate about making naloxone more available centered on the worry that addicts would be encouraged to overdose if they knew they could be saved, but it was ultimately decided that compassion for those caught in the grip of addiction would win out and most state and local governments opted to equip EMTs and hospitals with the life-saving medicine.
Naloxone has saved thousands of lives nationwide over the past few years, but a new study has shown that 10 percent of those saved by naloxone still died within a year of being saved. While these numbers do not show the motivations of opioid and heroin users, they do show something important to consider about using naloxone to stop overdoses.
Naloxone alone is not enough.
When opioid abusers overdose and are given naloxone, their bodies react in specific ways. First, their vital signs are stabilized, which saves their life. The drug also takes away the high from the heroin or opioid, putting them into withdrawal within just a few hours. Overdose victims may also feel nauseous, sweat profusely, and ache all over because the medication works so fast.
Some who have taken naloxone said they do have a few minutes of clarity that drives them toward treatment, but that is quickly overshadowed by intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms that could lead to taking more drugs and overdosing again.
Many who overdose and are revived with naloxone receive recommendations to seek treatment for their addiction but are released without any firm plans for further care. Getting more overdose victims into treatment programs before they leave the hospital could be one step toward preventing repeated overdoses and thereby cutting the number who die from a subsequent overdose.
Drug overdose can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone contact Colorado Poison Center for online assistance.
Finding Treatment After Overdose
While some addicts might be motivated to seek treatment after an overdose, they usually need help and intervention to navigate what can be a complex system of options and opportunities. Municipalities could develop policies that require treatment after an overdose, which would prompt hospitals to deepen their networks and develop ways to funnel patients into treatment programs.
Even follow-up with primary care physicians after patients leave the hospital may not be fast enough to counter the intense cravings created by using naloxone; treatment placement needs to be immediate if the cycle is going to be broken.
Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a Colorado drug rehab that provides a whole range of treatment programs for opioid drugs including heroin. The acute program provides intensive treatment that may include medications to help addicts detox and go on with treatment for even the most severe addictions. Learn about admissions to this lifesaving treatment facility today!