The Mighty Logo

What Is Narcan: The Lifeline You Never Want to Use but Should Know About

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

If you’re reading this, we understand that you’re likely navigating the overwhelming world of substance use disorder (SUD) as a caregiver. Being equipped with knowledge and resources could be life-saving in this challenging journey. One such resource is Narcan, also known as naloxone.

What Is Narcan?

Narcan is an FDA-approved nasal spray used as an urgent intervention to combat the life-threatening impact of opioid overdose. It contains naloxone, a medication that can rapidly reverse the effects of an overdose, essentially acting as a “reset button” for the central nervous system.

Why Is Narcan Crucial?

The opioid epidemic has shown us that overdose can happen unexpectedly, even when caution is exercised. When someone overdoses on opioids, their respiratory system slows dramatically, which can be fatal. Narcan acts swiftly to reverse this, giving the individual a chance at life while medical help arrives.

How Does It Work?

Narcan works by binding to opioid receptors, effectively blocking the opioid from continuing to affect the brain. This usually happens within minutes and can last 30 to 90 minutes, allowing enough time for medical professionals to step in.

Training and Availability: What to Know Before You Need It

1. Get trained: Many local health departments and nonprofit organizations offer free naloxone training. Ensure you and others in your support circle know how to use it.

2. Where to get it: Narcan can be purchased at pharmacies without a prescription in many states. Some nonprofit organizations also distribute it for free.

3. Keep it accessible: If your loved one is at risk of an opioid overdose, keep Narcan in easily accessible locations and inform all family members and friends where it is stored.

Could Having Narcan Enable a Person With Substance Use Disorder?

The answer is a resounding no. Narcan is not a safety net for substance use. It’s a safety net for life itself. It doesn’t promote substance use; it prevents fatality from overdose.

The very thought of having to use Narcan is heart-wrenching, but the reality is that it could be the difference between life and death in a crisis. It’s one of those things we wish never to use, but it’s indispensable to be prepared. The more you know, the more empowered you become in this collective fight against substance use disorder.

As a caregiver, you’re not just a bystander but an active participant in your loved one’s journey to recovery. There will be ups and downs, but your support could mean the difference between a setback and a step forward. It’s a weighty responsibility but a profound opportunity for love, growth, and transformation — for your loved one and for you.

Image Credit: Ohio State Health & Discovery

Originally published: October 4, 2023
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home