Narcan for Overdose

Narcan is a drug that counteracts the effects of opioids on the body. It has been around for a few years now, and it is used in different capacities, but like so many others, there is controversy surrounding this drug.

Narcan, or Naloxone, is an opioid antagonist, meaning it keeps drugs like heroin and morphine from having an impact on the body. It is used in treatment of these types of addictions, to keep the person from feeling any effects of their drug use.

Narcan, for the last four years, has been available also to reverse opioid overdoses. Emergency rooms and first responders have doses of Narcan available to them in order to save an overdose patient. But people have taken it one step further and pushed to allow everyday citizens to carry Narcan in case of an overdose by a friend or loved one.

Narcan Available to All

A group called the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center in New York City has come under fire in the past for offering needle exchanges and other assistance to drug addicts. Now they are responsible for putting Narcan in the hands of over 400 people, and it is something they view as an achievement. These 400 plus people were trained by the center on how to be safe and avoid overdosing, and how to administer the Narcan shot if necessary.

People who have an interest in carrying Narcan include family members of heroin addicts, and opioid users themselves who hang out with other junkies. People with the Narcan feel empowered that they would be able to save a life if needed by giving the shot, and they appreciate the work organizations like the Harm Reduction Center do in their area to allow them to stay safe. Over 105 reversals have been done as a result of this program in New York. In Massachusetts, which also ran a pilot program of Narcan, over 500 people were saved from their overdose.

Enabling Addicts

The question many of us are wondering, then, is what are these organizations doing to prevent the drug addiction that leads to overdose in the first place? Are these groups offering treatment and counseling to help addicts overcome their opioid addiction? It seems like the presence of Narcan is used as a safety net that allows someone to keep on using. As long as they know someone standing by can save them from overdose, it sure makes it easier to carelessly abuse these drugs.

We shouldn’t give up on the heroin addicts in this way. By giving a heroin junkie an emergency kit with Narcan in case they overdose, we are in a way taking away the danger of doing the drug, and helping them continue in their addiction. Instead of counting the number of people trained to carry Narcan or the number of overdose reversals, we should count the number of people getting off the drugs as the success – that should be the goal. A successful program would be one that rehabs addicts and thereby reduces the number of people that would even need a shot like this one.


A (good) shot in the arm that’s saving junkies’ lives


State report says deaths from opioid-related overdoses declined in 2008

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Meghan Ralston

    Thank you for your interest in discussing naloxone. I would like to address/correct a few things in your article.

    1. Not everyone who accidentally overdoses on an opioid (such as Vicodin, OxyContin) is what you have described as “a junkie” or “an addict.” Accidental drug overdose attributed to prescription opioids is now the NUMBER ONE cause of injury-related death in the US for men between the ages of 35-54 and the SECOND LEADING CAUSE for virtually all other age groups. More than 26,000 people die every year from an accidental drug overdose. Many of those people were not, as you describe, “junkies.”

    2. What message are we sending people who live with people abusing or addicted to opiates like heroin? That their loved ones life doesn’t matter unless they’re drug-free and that we should just let them all die if they accidentally overdose? Try looking any mother in the eyes and tell her to just let her son die right in front of her eyes as he overdoses instead of using naloxone to save his life. See what she says about your belief that we shouldn’t use naloxone to save the lives of people abusing drugs.

    3. Virtually every naloxone provider in the country makes drug treatment referrals to people who want them. To suggest that people who distribute the lifesaving drug naloxone DON’T care about helping someone to achieve their goal of abstinence or drug use reduction goals is 100% wrong. Ask any of them. Seriously. Find any naloxone provider in the entire country and ask them.

    4. Incredible, amazing people are literally alive today because someone gave them naloxone when they overdosed. They survived, found a way to cope withtheir trauma & struggles, created a new life and now are leading happy lives, all thanks to someone giving them a shot of naloxone as they were slowly dying from an overdose.

    5. I’m not sure where you live, but in most of the United States, people who are desperate for serious, intensive, longterm in-patient treatment can’t get it. Waiting lists for such programs are astronomical–and so is the price. Until we as a country prioritize drug treatment on demand for everyone who wants it, we will continue to need failsafe & stopgap measures to simply help keep people alive until they can get into a medically supervised detox or rehabilitation program.

    Again, thanks for your interest in naloxone. I strongly disagree with your point of view, but appreciate you bringing attention to this lifesaving drug.

    -Meghan Ralston

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