Naloxone, also known by its brand name, Narcan ™ , is the EpiPen of the heroin epidemic. It is an opiate antidote. The medication, used in the form of a spray or a shot, is simple to administer and can revive opioid addicts who are experiencing symptoms of an overdose.
Opioids include heroin and prescription pain pills like morphine, oxycodone, codeine, methadone and Vicodin. When an individual is experiencing symptoms of an overdose, breathing can slow down or stop and it can be difficult or impossible to wake them from this state. Left unattended, they will likely die. Naloxone, when administered, knocks the opioids out of the brain’s receptors and the person begins to breath and wake from their unconscious state. It has come to be seen as an essential tool to combat the skyrocketing number of overdoses.
It’s easy to see why. There are literally zero drawbacks that I have seen or heard about. It is safe and non-harmful even if used on a person who is not experiencing an overdose. If given to a person who has not taken opioids, it will not have any effect on him or her, since there is no opioid overdose to reverse. Because it can send a person into immediate withdrawal and doesn’t produce a high, naloxone / Narcan also has no street value if diverted to the black market.
I received my free naloxone prescription and training while attending an opiate awareness rally in Lansing, Michigan put on by my friends at Mi-Hope. At the time I didn’t realize this training would inspire me to educate others about Narcan and to help raise awareness about this life saving drug. I also didn’t realize that I couldn’t just walk into a drug store in Florida and purchase it. It’s a little more complicated than that, and up until March of 2016, it wasn’t even legal.
Thankfully, Governor Rick Scott just signed the bill into law that makes naloxone accessible without a prescription. Now all that is needed are outreach groups (that’s you and me) to educate and distribute the kits to anyone who could potentially have lifesaving contact with a person experiencing opioid overdose (that’s everyone).
Does Naloxone Really Work When Distributed to the Average Person?
So, what’s happening with all the naloxone that’s being distributed already? Are people who are becoming educated using this heroin antidote to save lives?
Nationwide, more than 150,000 people received naloxone kits from community outreach programs between 1996 and 2014. More than 26,000 opiate overdoses were reversed using those kits, according to a recent survey funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But we have to keep moving forward and remain very proactive about getting naloxone into the hands of the everyday person. Here, in my town, Fort Myers, Florida, we are putting together a Recovery Advocates of Lee County group. It’s main agenda is education about drug and alcohol addiction and harm reduction. We are meeting with several church leaders in the area to find a non-profit covering so we can apply for 200 free units and distribute throughout the community. We are also moving forward with a clean needle exchange outreach. I am beyond excited!
If you are interested in information on how to obtain naloxone or live in Lee County, Florida and would like to be involved in reaching one of the most vulnerable, shamed and shunned people groups with the love, respect and compassion they deserve, please reach out to us. You can continue the conversation by joining our Facebook Group or by calling 239-440-6856.
Thanks and much love!