Imagine witnessing an overdose and not being able to do anything about it until the ambulance arrives. Maybe you have been in that situation and it was super scary. What is even more frightening is that sometimes by the time help arrives it’s too late. We recently featured Michele Zumwalt on the Recovery and Company podcast. Michele became addicted to opioids in the late 1990s when the pharmaceutical companies told doctors patients could not become addicted to opioid pain relievers. For Michele and so many others, that turned out to be false. Michele overdosed and nearly died from prescription opioids. Now Michele is a recovery advocate and proponent of Narcan being in every cabinet, purse, pocket, or vehicle in America.
Drug overdoses and deaths in this country continue to rise at alarming rates. In 2021 there were over 75,000 deaths due to opioids alone. Some estimates say that in one out of three of those overdoses there were bystanders nearby. If those individuals had Narcan with them, there is a good chance those who overdosed would be alive today.
What is Narcan/Naloxone and How Does it Work
Narcan (Naloxone) is a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications. It works like a nasal spray, which makes it easy and safe to administer.
Narcan works by blocking the effects of opioids and reversing an overdose. Opioids impact receptors in the brain that control breathing. Too much opioid can stop a person from breathing. Basically, if someone stops breathing or their breathing has slowed way down, administering Narcan can start them breathing again in a few minutes. Often times it takes only one dose. However, sometimes more is required if the opioid is an extremely strong one, like fentanyl. Narcan is about the size of any other nasal spray so it is easy to carry or keep in your car, purse, or even your pocket.
The reality is that opioid overdose deaths continue to increase every year. The good news is with widespread Narcan distribution we can reduce these deaths significantly, as much as 21 percent according to one study.
Fentanyl Test Strips
Many opioid overdose deaths occur due to the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl is not only very small, but a tiny amount around the size of a few grains of salt can cause an overdose. What is so scary about fentanyl is that it is making its way into all kinds of street drugs and many people end up ingesting it without knowing it! In fact, it was reported that Prince thought he was taking Vicodin for pain and was not aware the drug was laced with fentanyl. It took his life. It was a combination of fentanyl and oxycodone that killed rocker Tom Petty. Canadian child star Logan Williams died of an accidental fentanyl overdose at just 16 years old. There are so many stories like these and there is not enough blog space to talk about all of them.
One of the reasons people use fentanyl (and dealers sell it) is because it is cheap to manufacture and a little goes a long way. The use of fentanyl test strips is another way to reduce opioid deaths. These strips can identify the presence of fentanyl in street drugs. Here is how you use them.
If you know someone who uses opioids, please encourage them to use fentanyl test strips. Because fentanyl is so powerful, it drastically increases a users risk of overdose. Keeping Narcan on hand could save their life in the event of an overdose. Narcan is easy to carry, simple to administer, and it could be the difference between life and death. If we all had some, we could significantly decrease overdose deaths in this county.
We offer Narcan at The Life Change Center. Please contact us for more information.