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January 21, 2019

How Does Naloxone Work?

The opioid abuse epidemic has been widespread in its effect on American citizens in recent years, with an estimated 2.1 million people aged twelve and older having a diagnosed opiate use disorder (OUD) in 2017, according to data collected by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). If you or someone you love has been affected by opiate addiction, you may have heard of Naloxone. But how does Naloxone work? Naloxone is a drug that helps to temporarily counteract an opiate overdose and has been in use in the medical community for counteracting opiate overdoses since the 1970s. In recent years, additional forms of Naloxone have been developed and released that have made it easy to administer without any prior medical knowledge or training, which can be extremely useful for the friends and families of users that are seeking inpatient addiction treatment.

How Does Naloxone Work?

Naloxone works to counteract the effects of an opiate overdose by binding to the opiate receptors in the brain in the place of the opiates that the user has taken. When Naloxone binds to the opiate receptors in the brain, it does not flood the brain with dopamine as an opiate drug would. Naloxone effectively binds to the opiate receptors in the brain to prevent opiate drugs from binding there, which is how it can temporarily reverse an overdose. Within two to five minutes of Naloxone being administered, it can become effective at preventing opiate drugs from binding to the opiate receptors in the brain. While Naloxone can be extremely effective in temporarily counteracting opiate overdoses, if a user has taken narcotics in addition to other drugs, such as stimulants or alcohol, it may be more difficult for Naloxone to effectively counteract the overdose.

Different Types of Naloxone

There are several different forms of Naloxone that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Below is an overview of each of the three forms of Naloxone and the scenario in which they are intended for use.

  • Nasal Spray: The nasal spray form of Naloxone is one of the most recently approved forms of Naloxone available. Nasal spray Naloxone is sold under the brand name Narcan. This form of Naloxone is administered by using a needle-free device that sprays the Naloxone up into the user’s nose. This method of administration allows the Naloxone to quickly be absorbed through the thin nasal lining in the nose and go straight into the bloodstream. The nasal spray form of Naloxone is available in two dosages to allow for repeat dosing if needed.
  • Injectable Naloxone: The injectable form of Naloxone is only intended for use by medical professionals who have been properly trained in how to safely inject medications. This is one of the original forms of Naloxone and has been used in emergency rooms for many years to temporarily counteract opiate overdoses.
  • Auto-Injectable Naloxone: The auto-injectable form of Naloxone is sold under the brand name EVZIO. In this form, Naloxone is pre-packaged into a device that will automatically inject a specific dose into the user. The device is equipped to provide verbal instructors to the individual administering the medication on how to inject it properly. The injection is intended to be administered in the thigh rather than the vein and each package has two different doses in the event that a second dose is needed while waiting for emergency responders to arrive at the location of the overdose.

The Side Effects of Naloxone

While Naloxone is completely safe for use in most people, some individuals can experience side effects or unwanted symptoms when Naloxone is taken. Some of the below side effects are due to the beginning stages of opiate withdrawal due to the Naloxone replacing opiate drugs on the brain’s receptors. Below are the most common side effects of Naloxone:

  • Physical weakness
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Body aches
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • A runny nose
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Goosebumps
  • Sneezing
  • Yawning
  • Watery eyes
  • Changes to heart rate, breathing rate, and/or blood pressure

In some rare cases, an individual may experience an allergic reaction to Naloxone. Signs of a potential allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hives, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Using Naloxone During an Overdose

In its Naloxone nasal spray and auto-injectable forms, this medicine can be administered by a caregiver, friend, or family member if a user is experiencing an opiate overdose. However, emergency medical services must always be called in addition to administering Naloxone. Due to its short half-life, the effects of Naloxone are temporary and further medical treatment by medical professionals will be required to treat an opiate overdose.

If you or a loved one is abusing opiates and are ready to get help, our addiction treatment center is here for you. Give our Florida rehab center a call today to get the treatment you deserve.

Sources:

  1. Harm Reduction Coalition. “Understanding Naloxone.” Retrieved from https://harmreduction.org/issues/overdose-prevention/overview/overdose-basics/understanding-naloxone/.
  2. MedlinePlus. “Naloxone Injection.” Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a612022.html.
  3. Naloxoneinfo.org. “Naloxone: Frequently Asked Questions.” Retrieved from http://naloxoneinfo.org/sites/default/files/Frequently%20Asked%20Questions-Naloxone_EN.pdf.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioid Overdose Reversal with Naloxone (Narcan, Evzio).” Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/opioid-overdose-reversal-naloxone-narcan-evzio.

 

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