Monday, April 21, 2014

Life-Saving Heroin Antidote Makes its Way to More Families

News Brief by Samantha Fine

Between 1996 and 2010, over 28,000 Americans died from heroin overdose - however, the death toll may be in decline. Recently this April, a life-saving antidote to heroin, known as Narcan, has been approved for distribution as a handheld device that can be quickly administered to an addict who has overdosed. Although this opioid antagonist has existed since the 1960s, it is now extremely accessible. 

When the device is activated, spoken instructions inform the user how to use the automatic injector. Narcan then enters the blood stream and latches onto the same receptors in the central nervous system that are affected by heroin and other types of drugs, such as alcohol or pain killers. By occupying these receptors, the high from the drug is terminated. The antidote also does not cause major side effects when used. 

Charles P. O’Brien, director of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania said, “One of the best things about Narcan is that it’s exceedingly safe…if you give it to someone who is unconscious because of bleeding in the brain, it won’t help, but it also won’t hurt them. But if you give it to the right person, it can save lives.” 

Although the access to Narcan has increased, certain states want the antidote to be used by medical professionals only. For example, Paul LePage, Governor of Maine, stated that Narcan is “an excuse to stay addicted…I think we need to deal with the treatment.” Perhaps with the increased accessibility, addicts can still remain addicted yet have a back up plan if they overdose. Yet, more support groups are standing by the belief that Narcan is a necessity for families of addicts. Narcan may be seen as “an excuse to stay addicted” - however, it clearly saves lives and creates a necessary security system for family members and support groups.

Carroll, L. (2014, April 9). Life-Saving Heroin Antidote Makes Its Way to More Families - NBC News. NBC News. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from
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