Last updated: November 27, 2023
Naloxone temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and it’s saving lives. Anyone is capable of administering this drug. It’s sold as a nasal spray. You simply place the nozzle in the overdose victim’s nostril and squeeze. It works almost immediately. That gives emergency responders a fighting chance to arrive on the scene and transport the victim to the hospital before it’s too late.
City governments began handing it out on the street to the homeless population several years ago. Fentanyl, an extremely potent synthetic opioid, was showing up as a contributing factor in overdose deaths. It carries a high risk of overdose on its own and hidden in other drugs, it can quickly become too much for the system to handle resulting in an overdose.
It was discovered that cartels were using it as a “filler” to increase the profit margin. However, they didn’t tell their customers and people were dying at an accelerated pace.
In 2021, 77% of adolescent overdose deaths were caused by opioids in which fentanyl was involved. In 2022, some city governments upped their game and installed Narcan vending machines to give addicts free 24-hour access.
On March 29, 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the sale of Narcan over the counter (OTC). It’s a brand of naloxone hydrochloride medication that comes in the form of a nasal spray. Four short months later, on July 28, 2023, the FDA approved a second naloxone nasal spray sold under the brand name, RiVive.
Is it flying off shelves?
Making this life-saving drug available without a prescription must have positively impacted the drug culture if the FDA has already approved a second medication. That would be a normal assumption, but no, that’s not the case. In fact, according to a recent poll conducted by Yahoo News and YouGov, lots of people have very little awareness about Narcan’s availability at all.
The poll was taken by 1,636 adult U.S. citizens spread across the country. It was conducted online between September 14th through 18th—just a few weeks ago. Of that group, only 7% admitted to having purchased Narcan while roughly a third of them had never heard anything about it at all. The final breakdown of statistics concluded that those who fell into the 18 to 29-year-olds bracket were the least informed about the drug.
A surprising reaction
It’s hard to believe that anyone living in the United States today doesn’t know someone who suffers from opioid addiction. Despite that fact, nearly 50% of the survey participants stated they didn’t intend to purchase naloxone products.
Dr. Jennifer Plumb, a pediatric emergency medicine physician and professor in the University of Utah Department of Pediatrics and the medical director of Utah Naloxone, believes that everyone should have this life-saving drug on hand. When interviewed by Yahoo Life about her reactions to the OTC sales, she said, “Of course, I like naloxone access anywhere, and I’m glad it’s available, but the majority of people who are truly at risk are not going to have access via this route.” She views the cost factor, roughly $50 for two vials of nasal spray, as a huge deterrent. The doctor is hopeful that as Narcan, and, now, RiVive, become more widely available the cost will decrease.
Could stigma be a cause?
What about people who don’t use opioids but know someone who does? It seems logical to think that they would purchase this over-the-counter lifesaver as a “just in case” measure. However, that doesn’t seem to be the public’s response. It could be the fear of someone thinking they use drugs, of course.
Should we be able to respond to that fear, we would say, “Push through that thought.” Narcan, and now, RiVive, save lives. It could be your family member or friend. Perhaps you’ll be somewhere when an unsuspecting child finds and eats an unattended pain pill. And we’ve likely all heard stories now of someone unknowingly coming into contact with just a few grams of fentanyl and overdosing.
Moreover, some cities are becoming overrun with homeless addicts who wander aimlessly in the streets. It’s not unheard of to consider that you may come across someone who is having an opioid overdose when walking down the sidewalk. Having naloxone on hand could be the catalyst that saves someone’s life.
They may be a stranger to you—and possibly a rough-looking stranger at that—but someone somewhere loves them. If you were carrying the thing that allowed you to reach out and save their life, we don’t hesitate to think that you would.