Substance Use

How to Use Narcan (Naloxone): Step by Step Guide

narcan nasal spray and box

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A Step By Step Guide for Using Narcan (Naloxone)

NARCAN is a lifesaver when it comes to opioid overdoses. Administering it can be accomplished in four simple steps: 1. check for overdose, 2. call 911, 3. give NARCAN, and 4. monitor until help arrives.

Have you ever witnessed a loved one or someone you know experiencing a drug overdose? Do you know what to do, realizing they could die if not treated right away? NARCAN (also known as naloxone) is a life-saving drug if you know how to use it. You’ll need to identify signs of opioid overdose, check for a response, give NARCAN Nasal Spray, call for emergency help, and re-administer NARCAN if there’s no response. 

If you or a loved one has opiate use disorder, getting treated and avoiding the risk of a fatal overdose is crucial. At Zinnia Health, we understand the challenge involved for getting off of opioids, whether prescription pain medications or street drugs. We have rehab centers located throughout the US, so inquire about our treatment process by contacting us online or by phone at (855) 430-9439.

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NARCAN (naloxone) is the brand name for the first FDA-approved naloxone nasal spray since 2015. It comes packaged as a metered intranasal spray (4 mg/spray) available over the counter.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), naloxone (naloxone hydrochloride) is an opioid antagonist capable of blocking the effects of opioids and reversing opioid overdose. It doesn’t affect those who don’t have opioids in their system, and it can’t be used to treat opiate use disorder.

The new NARCAN nasal spray is effective against the following opioids:

Opioids have a history of producing dangerous and fatal results. The State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS) showed that 50,943 fatal overdose deaths occurred in 2021, a significant increase from 44,606 overdose deaths in 2020. The highest percentage of overdose deaths (82.9%) involved opioids, with illegal fentanyl being the most common.

Sadly, of the 2020 deaths, 61.1% had the potential to be helped — nearly half by a bystander — yet, only 19.9% received naloxone.

How Do You Use NARCAN Step by Step?

NARCAN Nasal Spray is designed to be used on children and adults who you know are experiencing an overdose or showing signs of a suspected opioid overdose. Following is a step-by-step guide based on the NARCAN Quick Start Guide and the SAMHSA Opioid Overdose Toolkit:

Step 1: Check for Signs of Opioid Overdose

  • Shout the person’s name and ask if they’re okay.
  • If there’s no response, rub knuckles into the middle of their chest (sternum) or upper lip.
  • If responsive, check for breathing problems and the ability to remain responsive.
  • Continue monitoring while trying to keep them awake and alert.

Step 2: Call 911 for Emergency Help

  • If the person becomes unresponsive at any point, immediately call 911.
  • If they stop breathing, provide rescue breathing based on training or instructions from the 911 dispatcher.

Step 3: Administer NARCAN

  • To give the person NARCAN, you must lay them on their back. 
  • Remove the nasal spray from the box, and peel back the tab with the circle.
  • Hold the nasal spray so your thumb is on the bottom of the plunger and your first and middle fingers are on the sides of the nozzle.
  • Gentle insert the nozzle tip into one of the nostrils until your fingers hit the bottom of the nose.
  • Press the plunger firmly while their head is tilted back and their neck is supported with your hand.
  • After giving the dose of NARCAN nasal spray, remove the tip of the nozzle from their nostril.

Step 4: Evaluate and Support

  • Roll the person onto their side into the “recovery position” to prevent choking.
  • After the first dose of NARCAN nasal spray, watch them closely over the next 2 to 3 minutes.
  • If they don’t wake up, respond to your voice or touch, or start breathing normally, administer another dose of NARCAN nasal spray in the other nostril.
  • Continue monitoring and give additional NARCAN every 2 to 3 minutes, if available, until help arrives.
  • NARCAN may trigger unpleasant opioid withdrawal symptoms, known as precipitated withdrawal, so be reassuring if they seem confused or agitated.

Some people may need more than one dose of NARCAN before it takes effect. People who use more potent, longer-lasting opioids may require intravenous doses of naloxone.

You don’t have to suffer with substance use disorder. Opioid addiction is a disease that can be treated with the right level of care. If you’re ready to take the first step to recovery, contact the Zinnia Health 24-hour helpline at (855) 430-9439.

What Are the Signs of Opioid Overdose?

It’s essential to understand the warning signs of an opioid overdose. Anyone overdosing on opioids has life-threatening reactions that require immediate attention by emergency medical professionals.

If you know how to use NARCAN, you can help save a life until that person can be transported to a hospital.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest looking for the following signs of opioid overdose:

  • Eyes: small, constricted pupils (“pinpoint pupils”)
  • Face: extremely pale or clammy
  • Fingernails or Fingertips: purple or blue
  • Lips or Gums: purple or blue color
  • Mouth: vomiting, choking, or gurgling noises
  • Speech: unable to speak
  • Body: can’t be awakened, falls asleep, or goes limp
  • Breathing: shallow, slows, or stops
  • Heartbeat: irregular, slows, or stops

Whenever you suspect someone is overdosing on opioids, it’s critical to call 9-1-1 right away. In the meantime, if the person stops breathing, rescue breathing should be performed, preferably by someone trained and certified.

In addition, naloxone can be given to temporarily reverse the effects of opioids until the person receives medical attention.

Who Should Carry Naloxone?

Different naloxone products on the market, such as intranasal sprays (generic naloxone, NARCAN, Kloxxado) or injectable brands (Zimhi), are available over-the-counter (OTC) or by prescription.

Depending on your state of residence, you may be able to get naloxone without a prescription from your healthcare provider. To do so, you must be in a state that allows “standing orders,” which means anyone who needs it can get access.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you should carry and use NARCAN nasal spray to prevent the risk of overdose deaths if you’re:

  • Prescribed opioid pain relievers
  • Prescribed medicines to treat opioid use disorder
  • At risk of opioid overdose (e.g., take opioids and use alcohol or other drugs like benzodiazepines)
  • A caregiver of someone at risk of an opioid overdose

The possible side effects after you use NARCAN nasal spray may include headache, nasal congestion, and muscle pain. In the case of opioid withdrawal, symptoms might include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Body aches
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Stomach aches
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

Opioid withdrawal includes other severe symptoms, which require immediate emergency medical attention.

Get Treatment for Opioid Addiction Today

If you or someone close to you is at risk of opioid overdose, knowing how to use NARCAN can save a life. While some naloxone products can only be bought with a prescription, over-the-counter FDA-approved nasal sprays are accessible to anyone. Administering NARCAN can sound scary, but watching someone die and being unable to help is worse.

Learning to give someone NARCAN is straightforward and not as frightening when you understand the steps you must take. If you’re considering carrying naloxone as an overdose prevention because you or a loved one has an opioid addiction, consider seeking drug abuse treatment to heal for good.

Are you looking for options to take control of your life back? Zinnia Health offers a wide range of therapies tailored to your individual needs. Treatment is just a phone call away, so reach out to us today at (855) 430-9439.

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