Each year, 12 million Americans receive training on how to deliver lifesaving CPR. Yet far fewer are trained in administering Narcan, even though an estimated 130 Americans die from opioid overdoses daily. Dr. Mark Calarco, the national medical director for clinical diagnostics of American Addiction Centers, says that more people should carry the lifesaving drug and be prepared to administer it in emergencies.
What is Narcan?
Narcan is a form of naloxone, an “opioid antagonist” that counters the effects of an opioid overdose. When an opioid overdose occurs, it depresses the respiratory system and the central nervous system. Narcan works against these effects and allows the individual who is overdosing to breathe normally again.
It is designed to be easy to use, even for people who are not medical professionals. If you have prescription opioids in your home, it is especially important that you also keep Narcan on hand. It is safe, effective, and can work in seconds to reverse respiratory depression, the primary cause of death.
Calarco says, “With tens of thousands of American lives lost each year to drug overdose, it’s critical that we begin training Americans to administer Narcan (naloxone), just as we did with CPR, to help save the lives of our neighbors, family members and friends.”
Calarco is not alone in this opinion. In April, Surgeon General Jerome Adams also called on Americans to carry Narcan and know how to use it. He pointed out that over half of opioid overdoses occur in homes, so everyone should be armed to respond and save the lives of their loved ones.
Obstacles to Narcan Training
It’s clear that Narcan can save lives. Providing widespread access to Narcan and the knowledge to use it could significantly reduce the number of overdose deaths.
So, why hasn’t this idea gained more traction? Persistent stigma around addiction and mental health disorders is the greatest obstacle. Many people don’t understand the impact of addiction on individuals and communities. They may believe that addiction is shameful and would never happen to them or their loved ones.
As Calarco explains, “The truth is, addiction and overdose can affect anyone. It doesn’t discriminate based on income, gender, ethnicity, or background.”
Additionally, some argue that easy access to Narcan encourages or enables drug use. They fear that making Narcan widely available will implicitly give people permission to use opioids to excess and even overdose.
However, research shows otherwise. Recently, researchers conducted a national study on the impact of naloxone access on overdose deaths. They found that naloxone access is associated with a 14% reduction in opioid overdose deaths and a 23% reduction among African Americans. They reported, “We found no evidence that these measures were associated with increased non-medical opioid use.”
How to Receive Narcan Training
Fortunately, despite ongoing stigma, 49 states currently allow anyone to carry Narcan and administer it. In most places, you can go to your local pharmacy, request a Narcan kit, and listen to brief, simple instructions from the pharmacist. These kits are typically covered by insurance.
Calarco urges everyone to take this step and to receive training in CPR. However, he adds that Narcan training is easier, faster, and less physically taxing than CPR training. In addition, 45% of people who need CPR eventually die from their condition. In contrast, Narcan rapidly reverses the primary cause of overdose death (respiratory depression).
Narcan training is a quick, convenient step that anyone can take to save lives. Preparing yourself for an opioid emergency empowers you to take immediate action if a crisis occurs. With more than 72,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, every lifesaving measure makes a meaningful difference.
“Hopefully you never have to use it,” says Calarco. “But know that you could be the difference between life and death for someone if you do.”
Long-Term Recovery from Addiction
Although Narcan can prevent overdose deaths, it does not “cure” addiction. Recovery from addiction is an ongoing process that typically requires support from professionals. Often, an overdose is the wake-up call that individuals need to seek help. Narcan allows them to live long enough to receive it.
The next step is to find effective treatment that addresses the underlying causes of addiction, including co-occurring mental health disorders. After treatment, individuals in recovery need ongoing support to resist cravings, avoid or overcome obstacles, and remain healthy and sober.
An addiction-free life is possible for those struggling with addiction, and increasing access to Narcan and Narcan training is an important first step.
Next Step: American Addiction Centers
Once an individual who has overdosed on opioids is successfully treated with Narcan, effective treatment centers like American Addiction Centers can offer ongoing support throughout the recovery process.
American Addiction Centers customizes treatment based on every individual’s unique personal needs. AAC considers factors including health, environment, lifestyle, and co-occurring mental health disorders that may contribute to addiction. They utilize a positive, hopeful method that emphasizes personal strengths. Through this whole-person approach to addiction treatment, AAC has achieved a success rate that is double the national average.
Treatment often begins with medical detox, which includes 24/7 supervision to ensure safe withdrawal. Patients then receive customized, evidence-based treatment that may consist of group and individual sessions, 12-Step meetings, and treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders. These disorders may include depression, anxiety, bipolar, and PTSD.
Notably, American Addiction Centers continues to support patients after they have completed residential treatment. Each patient receives an aftercare plan that anticipates the challenges they may encounter as they reenter their usual environment after treatment.
By increasing access to Narcan and knowledge of how to administer it, we can save lives. Joining this movement is as simple as heading to your local pharmacy, purchasing a kit, and listening to brief instructions from your pharmacist. You may never encounter a situation that requires Narcan. But if you do, you’ll be prepared to save a life.
For the rest of the challenging process of addiction recovery, American Addiction Centers is there to offer expertise, support, and successful outcomes.
If you or a loved one is ready to make a lasting change, call American Addiction Centers at (888) 637-5518.
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