Opioid overdoses can be deadly, and administering Narcan at the first signs of a drug overdose can be a lifesaver, but how does Narcan work? Narcan is powerful and is the brand name for the drug Naloxone, opioids' worst enemy. Fortunately, this drug will act as a blocker against the overdose symptoms caused by opioids and reverse adverse side effects to prevent death.
When a person is overdosing on opioids, there are several systems within the body that are affected. First, breathing is slowed, which damages the organs throughout the body since oxygen levels dramatically decrease. The slowed breathing is caused by the overflow of opioid receptors in the medulla and the pons - both areas are responsible for breathing, among many other vital functions. As opioid receptors throughout the body are flooded with opioids, organs such as the heart can also be harmed.
Neurons, or nerve cells, travel through the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves are initially shut down. A person’s breathing slows, which causes respiratory depression. If someone builds a high tolerance and increases their dosage, this can cause breathing to stop entirely. Additionally, pain is not processed or signaled to the brain. A person then succumbs to organ failure.
So, how does Narcan work? Narcan is most commonly given as a nasal spray, and once the spray enters the user’s nostrils, it is absorbed. The drug works as an opioid antagonist in the brain, blocking opiate receptors from receiving certain chemicals, which helps to reduce side effects and the level of extreme overdose. Opioid receptors are located in nerves and organs throughout the body. In the brain, opioids can produce feelings of sleepiness. In regions of the brain stem, opioids relax breathing while they reduce sensations of pain in the spinal cord and throughout the body.
Combined flooding of opioid receptors throughout these areas of the body can be counteracted with Narcan, which blocks the absorption of opioids by the receptors and can revive a person from deadly overdose symptoms. It is important to understand how to administer Narcan properly, which is typically done through a nasal spray application.
While Narcan is lifesaving in its treatment of overdoses, the side effects of Narcan are like many other medications on the market. After learning about how Narcan works, it’s important to be aware of the opioid antagonist’s side effects. Some common effects on the body include:
If you are experiencing signs of opioid overdose like a slow pulse, low blood pressure, or reduced pupil size and clammy skin, then seek immediate medical attention. Narcan can help, but its efforts are not guaranteed. To avoid potential overdose, seek opioid addiction treatment.
While Narcan can counteract the effects of an overdose, it’s only effective for immediate resuscitation of a patient. It can’t treat the underlying problem of opioid addiction. At Banyan Treatment Centers, we offer opiate detox in Stuart to help patients through the withdrawal process and stay sober. Our medically monitored detox grants a safe environment for experienced medical professionals to work with you on the road to recovery.