From New York hospitals to California rehab centers, all across the nation physicians are administering the lifesaving drug Naloxone for overdose. Users of heroin, morphine, or hydrocodone who have overdosed, but are still alive, may very well be thanking this incredible drug.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports there has been a 30% increase in the number of patients admitted for opioid overdose from July 2016 to September 2017. With more and more individuals visiting the emergency room, the use of Naloxone rises along with the rising opioid epidemic.
When Does Naloxone Get Administered?
Naloxone can be administered to counteract known or suspected opioid overdose in a patient. Naloxone for overdose treatment is not the only treatment the drug is used for.
The drug is also utilized in smaller doses following surgery when opioids are used for pain management and the patient requires partial reversal of opioid depression. Naloxone has the ability to increase blood flow in individuals and is used in a number of experimental trials.
How is Naloxone Delivered?
Intramuscular injection via needle was the initial way Naloxone was dispensed. All states within the union have laws allowing anyone, doctor, friend, or family member, to administer Naloxone for an overdose.
With non-medical professionals providing treatment, two easy to use methods of delivery were developed. The easiest method is spraying the medicine into the nose. The Luer-lock nasal atomization device is a common intranasal Naloxone product. Although not FDA approved, it has a proven track record and has seen use for years.
Recently, the FDA approved the Narcan Nasal spray, another intranasal Naloxone for overdose product used. In 2014, the FDA also approved a single dose, auto-injector for non-clinical settings called Evzio. Evzio is designed for ease of use and to avoid accidental needle sticks. A voice recording provides step-by-step instructions to whoever is administering the lifesaving drug.
How do Patient’s React to Naloxone?
When a patient is provided Naloxone for an overdose, the drug acts to counteract the opioid’s effects. This can cause the patient to suffer from sudden withdrawal symptoms that can include:
- Runny nose
- Fever and sweating
- Tremors or shivering
- Body ache and weakness
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain
- Feeling of nervousness, restlessness, or irritability
- Fast heart rate, pounding heartbeats, and increased blood pressure
If the patient starts having difficulty breathing, develops hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, they may be having an allergic reaction to Naloxone and emergency medical help should be sought for immediately.
How Does Naloxone Work?
Opioid receptors, distributed widely in the brain, spinal cord, and digestive tract, are targeted by Naloxone. The drug binds to these receptors. This causes the effects of other opioids to be reversed and prevents further binding of these opioids to the receptors.
Normal respiration can be seen in a patient suffering an overdose almost immediately after being given Naloxone. Some opioids, however, will require a longer period of time before the observer sees improvements. A patient should be kept under a watchful eye and continue being administered the drug as necessary.
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Are There Side Effects Associated with Naloxone?
The administration of Naloxone does not mean a patient is out of the woods. Often patients given Naloxone will suffer side effects during and after the drug has reversed the effects of an opioid overdose.
The following side effects have been associated with the use of Naloxone:
- Ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation
- Pulmonary edema
- Cardiac arrest
In severe cases, coma or death can occur. It is imperative patients receive medical care from hospitals or California rehab centers as soon as Naloxone is administered. Side effects can continue for hours or days, complicating the recovery of the patient.
Does Naloxone Have Other Uses?
Although Naloxone is most widely known as a way to reverse an opioid overdose, the drug does have other uses. Infants, for example, exposed to opioids while in the womb may receive Naloxone once delivered. Additional research is still needed, but there is hope that using Naloxone could reduce the negative outcomes of affected infants.
There also has been evidence suggesting Naloxone can improve the blood flow of those suffering from septic, cardiogenic, hemorrhagic, or spinal shock. Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis has seen experimental use of the drug while Naloxone can be an antidote for clonidine overdose.
Naloxone has proven to be a life-changing drug for those who have overdosed on opioids. As of today, 42 states and the District of Columbia have implemented Good Samaritan laws for those who administer Naloxone in good faith.
As important as a drug Naloxone is, preventing overdoses from occurring in the first place is the mission of California rehab centers. If you or someone you know is suffering from an opioid addiction, please contact Ocean Hills Recovery today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.