How Naloxone Works in Treating Opioid Addiction
The United States suffered 70,630 overdose deaths in 2019, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But many, if not all, of those suffering from an opioid overdose can be saved by the administration of naloxone as soon as an overdose is recognized or even suspected.
EMTs, nurses, and many other medical professionals have been trained in how and when to administer naloxone to save lives. Here’s an overview of how naloxone works and how it helps in the fight against opioid addiction.
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is what’s called an “opioid antagonist.” This simply means that it blocks the effects of opioids. Receptors in your brain (called “mu” receptors) cause your body’s responses to opioids, such as slowed breathing due to respiratory depression. An overdose occurs when your body becomes overwhelmed with the opioid in question (such as fentanyl, heroin, or oxycodone).
Naloxone blocks those mu receptors from being affected by the opioids so that your body is no longer overwhelmed and can begin to physically recover from the overdose, usually within a matter of a couple of minutes.
Imagine your brain as a sink. The sink has dozens of faucets all the way around the edge. Under normal circumstances, only a few faucets would be turned on at a time and only opened slightly or maybe moderately. But opioids are like a child coming along and turning every single faucet on at full blast. Very quickly, the sink (your brain) is overwhelmed with water and will overflow (overdose) if the water flow isn’t stopped.
Naloxone is like an adult that comes along and turns off the faucets and locks them in the off position with a key so that the child can’t turn them back on again. Saving the sink from overflowing is the same as saving you from an overdose.
How does this relate to opioid addiction?
At first blush, it may not seem like naloxone has anything to do with opioid addiction treatment. After all, if it is only applied when someone has overdosed, this is nothing that can be used long-term or in other circumstances. But that’s not the case. Naloxone benefits those under opioid addiction treatment in a few significant ways many people tend to overlook.
Naloxone Reverses Opioid Overdoses and Stops Overdose Deaths
Naloxone reverses opioid overdoses. That means people who otherwise may have died from an overdose of opioids like codeine, Dilaudid, morphine, or Percocet can live. No treatment for any addiction will have any power over someone who is deceased. Naloxone literally gives overdose victims another chance to live and get the help they need to heal from their drug addiction.
Based on statistics from the National Institutes of Health, it takes people struggling with addiction an average of five attempts before they can achieve long-term recovery from their addiction. Without medications like naloxone, someone may die after their first or third attempt and not survive long enough to get the chance to recover.
Naloxone Makes Buprenorphine Treatment Stronger
Second, naloxone is a helpful additive to some buprenorphine treatments. It helps with a problem labeled in the medical community as “diversion.” This is what happens when a prescription drug intended for one person is used by another. Often, this transfer is due to the second person seeking a high from the abuse of the medication (like attempting to get drunk from drinking cough syrup that contains alcohol, even though it was prescribed as a treatment for cold or the flu).
Naloxone Can Be Kept At Hand
Because naloxone is meant to block the effects of opioids on the body, it is available to be taken home with the average person struggling with opioid addiction. This means that the risk of dying from an opioid overdose decreases because someone can have naloxone on hand to be used to save their lives should they overdose.
Many life-saving medications are so highly concentrated and dangerous when used without proper training that they must be kept at hospitals or other facilities where trained medical staff is always available for administration.
SaVida Health has the staff, knowledge, and experience to help provide medication-assisted opioid treatment that enables you to recover while living a full life. Call SaVida Health at (833) 356-4080 to discuss your treatment options today. You can also visit our website to contact us or learn more about how people are using treatments including buprenorphine, naloxone, and other medications to treat their opioid addiction.