The news broke Tuesday that pop princess Demi Lovato overdosed and an unknown miracle drug, Narcan saved her life. What exactly is Narcan? How did it save Lovato’s life? Here’s all you need to know about the life saving medication.
Narcan – What is it?
Before we find out what exactly Narcan is, let’s back up for a second. When Lovato reportedly was taken to the a Los Angeles hosptial just before noon July 24th, US Weekly reported Demi’s friends gave her Narcan before the paramedics arrived. That quick thinking potentially saved her life.
“One of her friends had Narcan on hand in case something like this happened,” a source told Us Weekly. “Her friends knew this was coming because she’s been using so much again.”
Originally, it was thought that the singer had overdosed on heroin. That might not be the case. Sources close to Lovato deny the claim. It’s to be noted that Narcan does reverse the effect of the deadly drug.
Narcan (aka naloxone HCI) is a nasal spray. It is used in emergency rooms to treat cases of opioid overdose or suspected opioid overdose. This according to the drug’s website. It’s an FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone, a medication used to counter the effects of opioid overdose, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Naloxone – which can be given through injection – is an opioid receptor antagonist, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
When someone takes opioids – like heroin or morphine – they bind to and activate opioid receptors in the brain, blocking pain, slowly breathing and having an overall calming effect. Enter when the overdose happens.
Now, Naloxone (including Narcan) competes with those opioids and kicks them off from the opioid receptors, says Patrick Lank, M.D., an emergency medicine specialist at Northwestern Medical Group. When that happens, “then the effects of the opioids start to reverse—the person arouses and begins to breathe again,” says Lank.
It’s easiest to deliver Narcan
Many emergency responders claim that Narcan is easiest to use when in life-or-death-every-second-counts situation. Since it’s a nasal spray, it’s easiest to deliver on the spot. It eliminates the risk of contaminated needles, according to a 2015 news release announcing Narcan’s FDA approval.
(The Surgeon General even issued an advisory saying that naloxone was a critical part of combating the opioid crisis.)
Narcan basically works like any other nasal spray: You place the tip of the nozzle in a nostril and press to release the medicine. Narcan is definitely not meant to replace emergency medical attention—even after a patient wakes up from Narcan, they still need to get to an ER. ASAP.
“Naloxone is very effective but may not work in the body as long as opioids do, so there’s a chance that a person who has overdosed could go unconscious again even without taking more opioids,” says Lank.
It’s also not recommended to give naloxone to someone who’s awake, says Lank. “This may actually cause opioid withdrawal symptoms, [which] include pain, vomiting, and diarrhea,” he adds.
Where is Narcan available?
Emergency responders have started to carry the drug, their ability to do so is dependent on their local rules and training, advises Lank. . “Paramedics will typically have naloxone in their collection of medication they have on an ambulance,” he says, though he adds that not all police carry or are trained to use the drug.
In the U.S, Narcan is available over the counter. It all depends on the pharmacy, and with a prescription in every state, according to the drug’s website. Locally, “some provinces offer free take-home naloxone kits,” as stated on the Canadian government website. It says to “consult your province to see whether these kits are available.”. Find more information here.
Narcan saved this bloggers life
“I have been mailing naloxone to individuals I have met through social media for over five years. This tiny program has saved 329 lives.” wrote blogger Tracey Helton Mitchell for Huffpost this week. “Imagine how much more could be done to stem the tide of overdose deaths if everyone who needed it had access.”
“I am grateful to be alive today.” She directly credits Narcan for being her survival. She “believe we are all worth saving, and I am a living example of that. My hope is that this public viewing of a private matter will humanize people who use drugs and expand understanding of the importance of Narcan.” Read her full article here.