Digging Deeper: Does Narcan Always Work?

Does Narcan Always Work?

It's a true life saver; we know that for sure.  But does naloxone, also known as Narcan, always work?

The drug is designed to reverse an overdose.

"It's a very intense experience," says Chase Holleman.  "It took three doses when I revived someone, so those minutes feel like hours."

Holleman is the Naloxone Program Coordinator for Caring Services in High Point, which offers treatment resources.

He says the reversal drug will always work, but some people might need more doses based on their body, the drugs they used, or even the type of doses.  Narcan can be a nasal spray or a shot and it typically takes a few minutes to kick in.

"We've heard up to as many as 6 doses to revive someone," he explains.

Holleman has also been on the other side of this, having been revived himself multiple times.

"Waking up from it you're immediately in withdrawals and what withdrawals feel like is like having the flu times 100."

Chase has been in recovery for more than 4 years now, meaning he hasn't used drugs or alcohol.  But a repeat overdoser is something first-responders are seeing more often.

So, is it possible for a person to build up an immunity to naloxone?

The short answer is no.

"It doesn't last very long in the systems so one doesn't build tolerance to it," Holleman explains. "Naloxone is going to be as effective on the first overdose as it will the fifth overdose."

He's also never heard of anyone being allergic to Narcan and it's not possible to become addicted to it.  But it is possible to give a person too much.

"If you give a person too much naloxone or more than they needed, when they wake up they're going to be very very sick  and very unhappy."

He says another big misconception is that administering naloxone will make a person more likely to use drugs because they know they know naloxone will save them.

"The only thing naloxone enables is breathing," Holleman explains.

A big part of his job is naloxone education.  Caring Services offers free doses for people who need them.  Click here to learn more about Caring Services.

© 2017 WFMY-TV


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