Narcan, a life-saving overdose reversal drug also known as naloxone, was used on singer Demi Lovato after she suffered an overdose at her home in the Hollywood Hills on Tuesday, TMZ reports. The overdose reversal drug has been used to save lives across the country, with police departments, firefighters and paramedics carrying kits in order to quickly reverse the effects of an opiate overdose.
Lovato, 25, has long battled addiction and recently released a song called “Sober” about relapsing after being clean for six years. According to People, Lovato, who was unconscious when authorities arrived, was taken to a hospital in Los Angeles after receiving Narcan and is “okay and stable.” It is not clear what drug Lovato overdosed on. TMZ says it was an “apparent heroin overdose,” but a source told People that it was not heroin-related. Narcan/naloxone can be used to reverse the effects of overdoses caused by other opioids, including synthetic opiates, like fentanyl, and painkiller pills, like Percocet and Vicodin, which contains the opiate hydrocodone.
So What Is Narcan?
Narcan is an FDA-approved nasal spray that can quickly be used to reverse opioid overdoses, according to the FDA website. It is a brand name for “naloxone hydrochloride, a life-saving medication that can temporarily stop or reverse the effects of an opioid or heroin overdose. This prescription product is approved for use in adults and children and can be easily administered by first responders, family members, or caregivers,” the FDA says.
“Combating the opioid abuse epidemic is a top priority for the FDA,” Dr. Stephen Ostroff, then the acting commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, said in 2015. “We cannot stand by while Americans are dying. While naloxone will not solve the underlying problems of the opioid epidemic, we are speeding to review new formulations that will ultimately save lives that might otherwise be lost to drug addiction and overdose.”
Naloxone can also be injected by a syringe or auto-injector, but as the FDA explains, Narcan made it easier for first responders and family and friends of addicts to quickly save lives after overdoses:
Many first responders and primary caregivers, however, feel a nasal spray formulation of naloxone is easier to deliver, and eliminates the risk of a contaminated needle stick. As a result, there has been widespread use of unapproved naloxone kits that combine an injectable formulation of naloxone with an atomizer that can deliver naloxone nasally. Now, people have access to an FDA-approved product for which the drug and its delivery device have met the FDA’s high standards for safety, efficacy and quality.
Narcan nasal spray does not require assembly and delivers a consistent, measured dose when used as directed. This prescription product can be used on adults or children and is easily administered by anyone, even those without medical training. The drug is sprayed into one nostril while the patient is lying on his or her back, and can be repeated if necessary. However, it is important to note that it is not a substitute for immediate medical care, and the person administering Narcan nasal spray should seek further immediate medical attention on the patient’s behalf.
Narcan Is Available Over the Counter in 46 States & Many First Responders Now Carry the Drug
Narcan is available over-the-counter in 46 states and with a prescription in every state. Only Delaware, Hawaii and Wyoming require a prescription, according to LifeHacker. The drug is not cheap, it costs about $130 to $138, according to GoodRx. Pharmacy chains began an effort to make the drug more readily available in recent years as the opioid crisis has grown nationwide. Many states have passed laws allowing for easy access to the drug, both for addicts and their friends and family, and for first responders. Some states have also passed “good Samaritan” laws that will allow for Narcan to be used without the fear of criminal charges. Walgreens announced it would be putting the drug over the counter in every store it could in 2017, and would be providing training.
“By stocking Narcan in all our pharmacies, we are making it easier for families and caregivers to help their loved ones by having it on hand in case it is needed,” Rick Gates, Walgreens group vice president of pharmacy, said in a statement. “As a pharmacy we are committed to making Narcan more accessible in the communities we serve.” The Walgreens press released added, “Walgreens pharmacists will also be available to instruct patients on how to administer the medication on Narcan demo devices. However, Walgreens notes that caretakers or other helpers also call 9-1-1, because the treatment is not a substitute for medical care.”
CVS offers the drug over-the-counter in all states except Wyoming (where there are no CVS stores), Nebraska, Maine and Hawaii. “Given the rapid rise of opioid overdoses, many state governments have responded by allowing local pharmacies to dispense naloxone without a written prescription. This helps caregivers, concerned loved ones, first responders and patients get naloxone more easily. We support the opportunity to provide naloxone to those who would benefit from having it on hand during an emergency,” CVS says on its website, which also includes tips for using the drug.
Police departments have started to have officers carry the drug, as they are often the first on the scene to overdoses.
You can watch a video of Pasco County Sheriff’s Office deputies in Florida administering Narcan (warning – graphic):
“We recognize that we cannot arrest our way out of the problem and so the deployment of Narcan is one of the strategies we are utilizing to address this issue,” Captain Mike Jenkins with Pasco County Sheriff’s Office told WFLA-TV. The man in the above video was found unresponsive with his eyes rolled back into his head. Deputies found a pulse and administered Narcan by spraying it up his nose. He was revived and received medical attention. Jenkins said arguments that Narcan enables drug addicts are wrong.
“The addicts state of mind is very different than the common logic that most of us use. Most addicts will tell you that the availability of Narcan doesn’t impact whatsoever their decision to use opioids,” he told the news station. “I am convinced that apart from these lifesaving efforts from our deputies that this would be one more overdose death that would have occurred in Pasco County. Our position on the matter is that all life is valuable.”