Preparing For A Loved One's Overdose

13 April 2017 Written by 

When someone you love is using drugs, the constant fear of an overdose is debilitating. There is a way to keep a sliver of hope at home in your medicine cabinet and it's called Narcan.

What Is Narcan?

Narcan, also known by its generic name, naloxone, is an overdose reversing drug. Narcan can be given as a nasal spray or by an injector. EMS and medical personnel can administer this drug by i.v. In an effort to help save lives, two major companies are trying to make this drug available without a prescription.

Where To Get It?

Narcan nasal spray: CVS stores in 31 states sell Narcan nasal spray without a prescription. (Click here for list of states.) The spray comes in a convenient box containing two units (each unit delivers a concentrated 4mg dose of active medication-naloxone hydrochloride- in a .1ml mist) for immediate use if the need arises. 

The pros: The nasal spray is easy to use. 

The cons: 

  • Some training is required to make sure the drug gets to the proper place:  you have to turn the body, lay them flat, and position the head correctly
  • Because you may come in contact with someone else's body fluids, you put yourself at risk for contracting HIV or Hepatitis C
  • These programs are new, and in my research, employees often had less knowledge of their company’s protocol than I did

To purchase, you must go to CVS's pharmacy department; this spray isn't sold on shelves over the counter. Your request has to be processed and sealed by the pharmacist. In other words, you will have to wait just as you would for a prescription. Be calm and persistent. Ask to speak to the pharmacist if you get any push back. Cost in my area without insurance is around $150. 

Evzio Narcan Injector: This product is a take-home 2 mg naloxone auto-injection system with voice and visual guidance—designed to help caregivers take fast, confident action administering naloxone in an opioid emergency.

The pros: 

  • The Evzio injector is designed to pierce clothing, including denim and leather, which keeps you safer from body fluid transmitted diseases like Hepatitus C and HIV
  • The injector comes with a trainer and tells you what to do
  • It is very easy to use

The cons: The Evzio injector is available in fewer locations, but the number of participating pharmacies is growing.

EVZIO is working with Benzer Pharmacies to help get this product to those in need. To find the participating pharmacy closest to you, visit their website:

Like CVS’s program, this is a new endeavor. EVZIO also has a standing protocol to get this medicine out to the people who need it without a prescription. Both of these options are expanding programs, so they may or may not be easy to find in your area. Ask to speak to the pharmacist if necessary.  

Who Needs It?

The bigger question is, who doesn’t need Narcan? If you are taking a prescribed opioid pain medicine, have Narcan on hand just in case. If you have a loved one who struggles with substance use disorder, Narcan should be part of your home first-aid kit. Even if your loved one is doing well, relapses are often a part of this disease process.

The biggest contributor to opioid overdoses is polydrug use. Pure heroin, while dangerous and addictive, isn’t a quick killer. People are dying because they are taking heroin cut with fentanyl or carfentanil (an elephant tranquilizer). Drinking alcohol or taking other legally obtained prescriptions while on pain pills also increases the risk of overdosing.

The average response time for a 911 call is nine minutes. Doing their best, rescue workers will arrive five minutes too late. Narcan has no ill effects if used on someone not overdosing from an opioid. People have even reported success when used to revive pets who get into their owners’ meds, although such use is not sanctioned by either manufacturer. Both of these options will take some time and money to have on hand, so don't wait until the emergency happens. Be prepared. 

If you don't have access to Narcan, please know what to do in an opioid overdose, and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS call 911. Narcan is only a temporary fix. Medical attention will still be required to save your loved one. 

A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Pam Carver

Read 1374 times Last modified on Monday, 17 April 2017 17:52
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Pam Carver

In my family of origin, three of us are in treatment for codependency, drugs, and/or alcohol abuse. Two of us are in denial about the devastating effects codependency, drugs, and alcohol have had on our family. None of us are talking about it. I’m the codependent one on a quest for healthy living through love and boundaries. My journey started in Celebrate Recovery. I have much to learn and practice. I live with my wonderful husband, amazing son, and pseudo-therapy beagle, Spot. I enjoy long walks on the beach and writing about the life-changing principles I’m learning in the rooms of recovery.
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