Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: Narcan Saves Lives

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Tamera was very career and family orientated and maintained a happy lifestyle while taking care of her son. Overtime she began to suffer from severe headaches and was prescribed opioid medication to help ease the pain. She began taking larger doses of medication to receive the same effects she once had and was continuously written prescriptions by several different doctors. Once her prescriptions ran out, she began purchasing pills on the street as a cheaper alternative. Tamera lost her home, career, and a significant amount of money all to her addiction. Battling with addiction, Tamera was later separated from her son so she could the seek proper treatment she needed (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1). Like Tamera, many Americans in the United States are over prescribed prescription medications and have become addicted to the nature of opioids. Opioids are naturally occurring compounds derived from the opium plant or a synthetic version of those compounds. Commonly known forms of this drug are known as morphine, heroin, fentanyl, codeine, and oxycodone (McCoy 1). These drugs are highly addictive and McCoy states that “most people who develop an opioid addiction begin by overusing or misusing a prescription opioid medication, whether intentionally or unintentionally, subsequently developing a prescription opioid use disorder.” In return when a patient’s prescription medication runs out, they will turn to illegal measures to obtain opioids.

In the United States of America, the opioid epidemic began in three stages starting in 1991 when the number of deaths increased because of doctors prescribing patients opioid medications for the treatment of pain. Pharmaceutical companies convinced prescribers that the risk of opioid addiction was low and continued to promote the use of opioids in patients with non-cancer related pain. By 1996, eighty-six percent of patients using opioids were using them for non-cancer pain and many communities began to experience an increase in opioid abuse. The second stage of the opioid epidemic started in 2010 when many efforts were made to decrease opioid prescriptions. This caused many patients to turn to illegal opioids once their prescription medication ran out. Common forms of illegal opioids include heroin and fentanyl. Overtime the deaths caused by heroin overdoses increased by 268% from 2002 to 2013. The third stage of the opioid epidemic began in 2013 when many patients encountered a powerful manufactured opioid, fentanyl. Deaths caused by fentanyl resulted in 20,000 deaths in 2016 (Liu et al. 1). With numerous amounts of people becoming addicted to opioids, the number of overdoses is rapidly increasing over the years. Narcan, an opioid antidote, is very effective at reversing the effects of opioids. Many Americans believe that Narcan should be carried by the general public to provide an immediate antidote and decrease the growing number of overdoses. However, others argue that in some states they could face prosecution for administering Narcan in public. Since the opioid epidemic has been declared a public health emergency, Americans should carry Narcan on them every day to save lives.

Narcan is a brand name form of a medication, naloxone, that reverses the effects of opioids by blocking opioid receptors in the brain. Opioid drugs effect the part of the brain that effects breathing so when some overdoses their breathing slows down to a dangerous rate which may result in death (Piotrowski 1). When Narcan is administered after an overdose it works quickly to reverse the effects from the opioids to revive a person’s breath rate back to normal. Narcan begins to work within two to five minutes after it had been released. The public is urged that if an addict does not respond to the first dose it is safe to administer a second dose until an emergency personnel arrives. Narcan is manufactured by Adapt Pharma, a privately held company based in Dublin Ireland. Adapt Pharma is committed to providing treatment options for addiction and has its United States headquarters located in Radnar Pennsylvania (PR Newswire.) Narcan is readily available in a nasal spray device that is used by shooting a dose of spray up an individual’s nostril where the medication is absorbed and transferred into the bloodstream to reverse the opioid overdose (Recovery First). With Narcan readily available for the public to use people who overdose would receive immediate help that could save their lives. In many cities, emergency vehicles may take longer to get to someone who has overdosed. Ford writes that seventy-seven percent of opioid fatalities caused by opioid overdoses occur outside of a medical setting and more than half occur at home (44). This means that it is important for Americans who are the first on the scene of an overdose to carry Narcan on them every day when emergency personnel are not immediately available.

The Opioid Epidemic is a rising concern that the president of the United States, Donald Trump, announced in his speech on October 26, 2017 the importance of fighting this epidemic. Trump states that the United States of America lost at least 64,000 Americans to drug overdoses in the previous year. He further states that 175 Americans lost their lives per day equivalent to seven lives lost per hour in America. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States which is more than gun homicides and motor vehicles combined (Trump 1). Since the number of overdoses are rising it is important for Narcan to be carried by Americans to help save the lives of those who are in need.

Many communities are being hit by the rapid increase in opioid use and overdoses. The Free Library of Philadelphia’s McPherson Square Branch has turned to Narcan to save the lives of addicts who overdose on their property. Library staff members are being trained on how to discard used needles and on how to reverse opioid overdoses. Staff members prevent drug abuse and overdoses by taking walks through the library daily to monitor activity. Following the Free Library of Philadelphia’s protocol, Denver Public Library’s Central Library turned to Narcan after a homeless man overdosed and died from a mixture of several opioid drugs. American Libraries editor, Anne Ford, writes that “the library bought twelve kits in February and by May it had used seven of them” (47) This proves the need to readily have Narcan available to Americans daily to reverse the growing rate of opioid overdoses in the United States of America.

The state of Maryland has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. The Maryland Department of Health stated that between 2015 and 2016 the number of heroin related deaths increased by sixty-two percent from 748 to 1212, and the number of fentanyl-related deaths more than tripled from 340 to 1119. More than 2,000 deaths occurred in Maryland in 2016 and 89 percent of them were opioid related. Later, The National Institute of Drug abuse stated that as of February 2018 Maryland is one of the top five states with the highest rate of opioid related overdose deaths. As a result of Maryland being hit hard by this opioid epidemic, public schools are now being required to stock the overdose reverse drug naloxone and have staff available that is trained to use it. (.) Licensed Certified Social Worker of Dorchester County, Lashawnda Leslie-Butler, exclaims the importance of keeping Narcan readily available. Butler states that she began carrying Narcan before schools did because of the high overdose rate in the county. “Narcan is an amazing idea and should be carried by the public just like any other medication.” Butler further exclaims that “Narcan is life saving and gives people a chance.” With many institution taking measures to protect the lives of those who overdose or encounter opioids the public is urged to keep Narcan readily available.

Works Cited

  1. Ford, Anne. “Saving Lives in the Stacks: How Libraries Are Handling the Opioid Crisis.” American Libraries, vol. 48, no. 9/10, Sept. 2017, p. 44-49. EBSCOhost,
  2. "How Does Naloxone Work?" Recovery First Treatment Center. 23 Nov. 2016. 22 Apr. 2019 .
  3. History of the Opioid Epidemic: How Did We Get Here? 29 Apr. 2019 .
  4. McCoy, Krisha, MS. “Opioid Abuse.” Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health, 2019. EBSCOhost,
  5. "Opioid Crisis." Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 22 Apr. 2019.
  6. Trump, Donald. “Time to Liberate Our Communities from This Scourge of Drug Addiction.” Vital Speeches of the Day, vol. 83, no. 12, Dec. 2017, p. 357. EBSCOhost,
  7. Piotrowski, Nancy A. “Opioids.” Salem Press Encyclopedia of Science, 2018. EBSCOhost,
  8. PR Newswire. “ADAPT Pharma® Launches NARCANDirect.Com.” PR Newswire US, 29 May 2018. EBSCOhost,
  9. PR Newswire. “Newly Published Study Finds NARCAN® Nasal Spray’s Concentrated Formulation Rapidly Delivers an Effective Naloxone Dose and Is Readily Usable by the General Public.” PR Newswire US, 20 Sept. 2016. EBSCOhost,
  10. “Tamera | Rx Awareness | CDC Injury Center.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Sept. 2017,
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Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: Narcan Saves Lives. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved February 29, 2024 , from

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