Importance of Naloxone

Importance of Naloxone
Naloxone is a powerful tool during an opioid overdose. Like other emergency devices and treatments such as first aid kits, fire extinguishers or EpiPens, naloxone is used to save lives during a medical emergency. Let’s explore how naloxone helps in emergency situations.

What are opioids?
Opioid medications are mostly used to treat pain, such as pain from an injury or surgery. You may have heard of some common opioids before, like codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine and oxycodone. There are also non-prescription opioids, like heroin and imitations of prescription opioids that are either made or obtained illegally.
Opioids help release chemicals in the brain that can help with pain management. In some individuals, these chemicals may cause euphoria (feeling high). If you’ve been taking opioids for a period of time, your body may become physically accustomed to or dependent on the opioid and stopping it may cause unpleasant feelings. Because of this, opioids can be misused and sometimes cause addiction. An opioid addiction is a medical condition that makes people dependent on opioids both physically and psychologically. They may know that it’s destructive to their lives and want to stop, but it’s extremely hard for them because it helps them “feel normal” and avoid withdrawal.

What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is a rescue medication used to help temporarily reverse opioid overdoses. Overdoses can happen when a person take too much opioids. Naloxone works to block the opioid’s effect, and in most cases can help people breathe normally again.
However, it’s important to remember that naloxone is not a cure. In fact, it’s meant to be used to provide enough time for emergency medical help to arrive.

Naloxone and the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act
After being given naloxone, medical care is still needed. Unfortunately, many people using naloxone to treat an overdose do not call emergency services because they’re worried about getting arrested for being in possession of an illegal substance.
However, it’s critical to know that you shouldn’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 during an overdose. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, protects those calling 9-1-1 and everyone else present when an overdose occurs from being arrested for possession of an illegal substance.

Getting Naloxone
Naloxone kits are available through pharmacies, and at all your local Shoppers Drug Mart locations. Our Pharmacists are trained to provide and educate you about Naloxone in a confidential and respectful manner. Unlike an EpiPen that people can give themselves in an emergency, naloxone is given when a person is unconscious, so it must be given by someone else. If you use opioids, you and your close contacts should have a kit handy in the event of an emergency. If you are caring for someone at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose, you should also have a kit ready and understand how to respond to an emergency to protect your loved one. Naloxone can save a life during an overdose, so it’s important to get a kit if you think you or someone you know may need it. In many cases, you can get one for free at your pharmacy without a prescription. It’s available for everyone that needs one, regardless of whether the opioid was prescribed or purchased illegally.

If you would like to get a Naloxone kit, find your nearest store location here.

References
1. Government of Canada. (2019). About opioids. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/problematic-prescription-drug-use/opioids/about.html. Accessed April 25, 2020.

2. Camh. (n.d.). Opioid addiction. Retrieved from: https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/opioid-addiction. Accessed April 25, 2020.

3. Government of Canada. (2019). Opioid overdose. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/problematic-prescription-drug-use/opioids/overdose.html. Accessed April 25, 2020.

4. Government of Canada. (2019). Naloxone. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/problematic-prescription-drug-use/opioids/naloxone.html. Accessed April 20, 2020.

5. Government of Canada. (2019). About the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/problematic-prescription-drug-use/opioids/about-good-samaritan-drug-overdose-act.html#a2. Accessed April 20, 2020.

6. Belzak L, Halverson J. Evidence synthesis – The opioid crisis in Canada: a national perspective. Health Promot Chronic Dis Prev Can. 2018 Jun; 38(6): 224–233. doi: 10.24095/hpcdp.38.6.02

7. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. The Availability of Take-Home Naloxone in Canada. https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2019-05/CCSA-CCENDU-Take-Home-Naloxone-Canada-2016-en.pdf. Accessed April 20, 2020.