Naloxone (Narcan)

Naloxone is an Opiate Antagonist

Naloxone works as an opiate antagonist. This means that it is an effective treatment for the reversal of the effects of opiate type drugs. It is commonly used to treat overdose. It can reverse the effects of opiate drugs such as:

* Heroin
* Morphine
* Methadone
* Pethidine
* Diamorphine
* Codeine

Names for Naloxone

This drug can also be referred to as:

* Narcan
* Narcanti
* Nalone

How Naloxone is Used

This drug is used to treat:

* Reversing any respiratory problems caused by opiates
* To treat opiate overdose or suspected overdose
* It can be used to diagnose opiate overdose. If an unconscious individual responds to the drug it will establish the cause.
* It may be given to newborn babies with respiratory problem if their mothers are opiate users
* The drug is also being used to treat a rare condition known as congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis
* Naloxone is an important ingredient of another drug known as buprenorphine. This medication is used for the treatment of opiate addiction, and as a pain killer.
* There is some research that indicates that Naloxone may be of use in the treatment of depersonalization disorder.

The Dangers of Opiate Overdose

If people overdose on opiates it can put their life in danger. This is due to the way these drugs can affect the respiratory system. High doses of the opiates depress the respiratory system so that the individual is unable to get enough oxygen. If this situation is not rectified it can quickly lead to dead. Overdoes can happen if people have been given too much opiate analgesia in hospital; for example, this might occur during a surgical procedure. One of the most common causes of overdose is recreational use of illegal opiates. The purity of drugs like heroin will vary greatly; addicts can mistakenly inject too much.

How Naloxone Works

Naloxone works by blocking certain opiate receptors in the brain. Drugs like heroin produce their effects by binding with these opiate receptors. The effectiveness by which Naloxone is able to block the opiate receptor sites will depend on the amount that has been administered. 2 mg of the drug is usually enough to reverse an overdose. It is usually given my intramuscular injection and will start working within 3 minutes. Naloxone is effective for 30-75 minutes. It may be necessary to resort to further treatments if the symptoms of overdose reappear after this time.

Potential Side Effects of Naloxone

There are a number of potential unwanted side effects with this drug including:

* This medication can put opiate addicts into withdrawal
* Mood swings
* Irregular pulse
* Tremors or shakes
* Nervousness
* Nausea and vomiting
* Tachycardia (fast pulse rate)
* Seizures
* Chest pain
* Increased perspiration
* Headaches
* Tiredness
* Facial flushing
* Allergic response including swelling and rash
* Experience of pain may be increased after administration of this drug

Harm Reduction and the Availability of Naloxone

In the past Naloxone has only been available in hospital or on prescription. It was extremely difficult for IV drug users to get their hands on this medication. This situation has been criticized because it is almost certain that if Naloxone is freely available it will save lives. This is why in many parts of the world the control over this drug is being loosened. There are even calls for it to be made freely available to all IV drug users as part of harm reduction programs. That way if somebody overdoses it will be possible to treat the respiratory depression right away; many die while waiting for an ambulance. In some cities in the United States and UK they have provided Naloxone to heroin users as part of an emergency pack

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