The Need for Over-the-Counter Narcan
Table of Contents
- The Need for Over-the-Counter Narcan
- What is Narcan?
- What is the Need for OTC Narcan?
- Which States Can Sell Narcan Over the Counter?
- The Uphill Battle Against the Opioid Epidemic and Drug Overdose Rates
- Opioid Overdose Signs and Symptoms
- Freedom From Addiction is Possible: Reach Out Now!
- Medically Reviewed By
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 106,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the US in 2021. These fatal overdoses involved both illicit and prescription opioid drugs, a testament to the severe threat these substances pose throughout the nation.
As an attempt to combat this ever-increasing opioid epidemic, many states and pharmacies have begun to press local governments for the right to sell over-the-counter Narcan (Naloxone) at pharmacies and drug stores in their communities to battle this public health crisis.
This has been a surprisingly uphill battle as many lawmakers and agents of the government have been hard-pressed to admit that there is, in fact, an opioid epidemic and that the “War on Drugs” just isn’t cutting it. However, in a shocking but progressive twist of events, CVS and a few other pharmaceutical chains have begun to make headway, and have approved 14 states to sell Narcan over the counter. Even more impressively, as a response to the overdose crisis ongoing in the US, every single state now has a Standing Order or other clause in place to make OTC Naloxone available to its residents.
If you or a loved one is opioid dependent, having access to over-the-counter naloxone can keep you safe from the life-threatening side effects of these drugs. Keep reading to learn more about Narcan, and why you should obtain and keep this life-saving medication in your home and office!
What is Narcan?
Naloxone, or the generic name Narcan, is a drug that immediately halts the effects of heroin and other derivatives such as Morphine, Oxycodone, Codeine, Methadone, and Vicodin. The fast-acting impact of this drug prevents overdose and can bring someone back from the brink of death.
It is commonly used in addiction treatment programs, as those going through severe opioid withdrawal symptoms (body aches, runny nose, and other flu-like symptoms) may be at an increased risk of relapse. If someone does relapse, they are more likely to take too high a dose of an opioid, which can lead to overdose. Having Narcan on hand in these cases is important for preventing this condition from progressing and keeping the individual on track with their recovery.
It can be found as a Narcan nasal spray that is administered intranasally or into the muscle via an IV injection. The agent works by ejecting the opioids from the opioid receptors in the brain and usually begins to show signs within 5 minutes.
The chemicals will stay in the brain anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes which is more than enough time for the administration to continue with CPR or help until an emergency response team can be called.
What is the Need for OTC Narcan?
The last few years have seen such an alarming increase in prescription drug abuse and deadly overdose rates due to the increasing availability of these substances. Many communities are at a loss for what to do. Fire Departments, Police Stations, EMTs, and other first responders can barely keep up in some states.
Over-the-counter sales of Narcan at convenience stores, grocery stores, and other easily accessible retail locations will reduce the death toll from overdose and decrease funding that would otherwise be going to the countless 911 calls that are flooded in daily.
In some cases, with proper training, even online retailers have been able to improve access to this life-saving drug, providing the medication at retail price at an easily accessible and affordable cost.
Overdose Reversal and Naloxone Availability
Drug overdoses have officially become the leading cause of accidental death in the US. In 2015 alone, there were a reported 55,403 lethal drug overdoses. Out of that number, 20,101 were overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 of them were overdose deaths related to heroin and synthetic opioids. That is more than 50% of the accidental deaths for the entire year.
The benefits of selling Narcan over the counter are that family members and loved ones of addicts can aid the fight on the front lines, so they no longer have to find their loved one or child slumped over and blue, and not be able to help.
Administering Narcan immediately gives the user more than a 90% chance of surviving. Whereas without it, permanent brain damage due to lack of oxygen can be fast acting, permanent, and fatal.
Which States Can Sell Narcan Over the Counter?
Up until this past year, only Massachusetts and Rhode Island had approved the sale of Narcan without a prescription. However, CVS has announced that they will sell Narcan over the counter in 12 more states, including, Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin.
And, as mentioned above, as of November 2023, Narcan is not available without prescription in all 50 states of the US. The more accessible Naloxone is, the more lives can be saved!
The Uphill Battle Against the Opioid Epidemic and Drug Overdose Rates
One of the hardest issues facing the crisis is the fact that the most common agent in this epidemic is a synthetic opioid group called Fentanyl and Carfentanil. Fentanyl is an FDA-approved medication that is highly potent and is only legally administered by doctors after major invasive surgery or for patients undergoing chemotherapy. However, with the rise of overdoses due to illegal use, the US and China have officially banned the importation of factory-made fentanyl into the states.
Even with the ban, people are still finding routes to continue manufacturing and distributing the agent in the US. Carfentanil and fentanyl analogs have been at the root of many of the overdoses, and the trouble lies in the fact that illegal manufacturers have discovered how to create it in clandestine labs. Therein, they can make it as potent as they want.
Frankenstein Opioids and Counterfeit Fentapills
Users who are expecting the usual potency from a bag of heroin, are usually taken off guard to find that the potency of the dose, when mixed with lab-made Carfentanil, results in an almost immediate overdose, even when only a small amount is injected. Most people won’t even make it to two doses of this substance before they have consumed a deadly amount.
The allowance of over-the-counter Narcan would help to prevent countless users from dying by overdose. It would reduce the costs of hundreds of fire stations and emergency response teams, thereby lowering the taxes paid by Americans. Since the administration of Narcan is pretty simple, all manufacturers would need to do is stick the directions on the side of the package. Government and local communities who have not yet approved the sale of over-the-counter Narcan will soon be faced with an ultimatum, face hundreds of deaths, or provide a safe and effective alternative.
Opioid Overdose Signs and Symptoms
In order to know when to use Narcan, it is important to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose. Some of the most common signs of an opioid-related overdose include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Respiratory failure
- Increased blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
Those who are struggling with opioid use disorders will be at the highest risk of experiencing a life-threatening overdose. If you or a loved one is addicted to opioids, seeking professional treatment will be the first and most important step to overcoming these substance abuse habits, and living a happier, healthier life.
Freedom From Addiction is Possible: Reach Out Now!
If you have found yourself suffering from an opioid use disorder, you are not alone! If you are ready to change your life and live free of addiction, then Find Addiction Rehabs can help. We give you the jump start to recovery you need.
Our dedicated recovery representatives are available any time of day or night and can let you know the resources available nationwide. For more information on programs available across the country, please call our team today and get started on a path of healing.
The time to recover is now, so reach out and get options today!
Deborah Tayloe is a freelance writer specializing in health and sciences. Deborah earned a B.S.Ed. in Secondary Education/English, accompanied by a Spanish minor. Her writing expertise allows her to craft engaging, impactful articles to help people be well.
In addition, she holds a fully accredited Certificate of Natural Medicine and is a certified Herbalist. Through her understanding of complementary medicine, Deborah helps medical professionals give people the information they need to embrace natural approaches to wellness.
When she’s not working, Deborah trains for 5K races and advocates for animal rights.