What is Naloxone and why is it prescribed?
Naloxone is a medication that is typically administered in hospital ER’s for overdosing on narcotic substances and opioids such as heroin or morphine. The brand names that Naloxone is sold under include Narcan, Narcanti, and Nalone. Regardless, the drug is administered in order to counteract life-threatening conditions including depression of the central nervous or respiratory systems. It is also used to reverse the narcotic side effects of medications administered during surgical procedures or for the treatment of pain
Naloxone is oftentimes mistaken as naltrexate and should not be confused with Naltrexone, which is commonly prescribed to treat substance addiction and dependency, not overdose. Most of the ER’s in the US today keep Naloxone on hand in order to treat opiate or opioid overdosing, especially heroin and morphine or narcotic analgesics (painkillers) such as OxyContin or Vicodin. Naloxone was originally developed in the 60’s as an experimental drug but it eventually found its niche in the treatment of overdoses.
Side effects and withdrawal symptoms
As with any other potentially addictive substance, Naloxone is not immune to side effects and withdrawal symptoms that arise when you quit taking it. Additionally, these severe side effects include allergic reactions such as hives, respiratory difficulties, and swelling of the face, lips, mouth, throat, or tongue. You should always get emergency medical help if you experience an allergic reaction.
Additionally, you should contact your physician should you notice any of the following side effects going on with you or a loved one:
- chest pains, fast or irregular heart rate
- confusion, disorientation
- convulsions or seizures
- dry cough and wheezing
- fainting or feeling as though you are going to pass out
- severe headaches
- shortness of breath or slow breathing
- slow heart rate
- weak pulse
Common withdrawal symptoms – body aches, chills, diarrhea, dizziness, feeling irritable, fever, goosebumps, mild nausea, nervousness, restlessness, runny nose, sneezing, stomach pain, and weakness
Although this is not a complete list of the side effects and withdrawal symptoms, you should contact your physician if you are unsure of things and have further questions.
Important information about Naloxone
You should not take Naloxone if you know that you are allergic to it and should discuss this with either your pharmacist or physician. If you have overdosed on Naloxone and are not responsive to first responders (EMT’s) or physicians in the ER should you have to be taken there, you won’t be able to tell them what is going on with you. As a precaution, you should be wearing a medic alert bracelet just in case or inform your family physician regarding your experience.
If you recently gave birth and are breast-feeding, or you are pregnant or are planning on getting pregnant, you should discuss this with your physician. However, it is unclear as to whether or not an infant will suffer any ill side effects if Naloxone passes through the breast milk and is potentially harmful to the infant. Any information like this should be discussed with your family doctor if Naloxone is in the picture.
Another key issue for consideration is that Naloxone impairs a person’s ability to think clearly or concentrate and can also impair physical coordination. Extra precautions should always be taken if you are planning on getting behind the wheel of a vehicle or performing a task that requires you to be alert. If you are dealing with an addiction to or dependency on a narcotic painkiller, Naloxone reverses the effects of the substance. However, drinking alcohol with Naloxone has just the opposite effect and increases the side effects.
Discuss the following issues with your family physician and stopping taking Naloxone if these issues apply to you:
- a history of alcohol or drug addiction or dependency
- a history of head injury or brain tumor
- heart disease
What is important is the fact that Naloxone is usually administered in a clinical setting so that a medical professional can monitor your vital signs while under the influence of the drug. Blood pressure, breathing, kidney function, and oxygen levels are closely monitored when you have been injected with Naloxone.
What drugs interact with Naloxone?
As we mentioned earlier, whenever you are taking a narcotic analgesic (painkiller), the pain-relieving effects of it will be reversed by Naloxone. If you are taking any of the following medications, be sure to inform your physician:
- narcotic analgesics (pain medications) including drugs such as codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine, and oxycodone
There are other prescription medicines, OTC medications, and herbal products or vitamins that have the potential to react negatively with Naloxone. One way or the other, you should always discuss these issues with your physician. Additionally, do not start taking any new medications without consulting with your doctor first.
Additional considerations with Naloxone
Naloxone is primarily administered to counteract opiate or opioid addiction or dependency and overdose. However, it is oftentimes prescribed for other applications such as the treatment of depersonalization disorder. In a recent study that was conducted in Russia, it was revealed that Naloxone use was successful in the treatment of the aforementioned disorder. The study showed how it reversed or removed the symptoms of the disorder with three out of the 14 subjects that were being studied.
Additionally, seven more or 50% showed significant signs of improvement. According to Y.L. Nuller, M.G. Morozova, O.N. Kushnir, and N. Hamper (June 2001) in their report “Effect of Naloxone therapy on depersonalization: a pilot study”, the therapeutic effects of Naloxone provided evidence that “the role of the endogenous opioid system in the pathogenesis of depersonalization.”
If you would like more information regarding Naloxone and its treatment applications or if you or a loved one has built up a dependency on the drug, please contact Blue Water Detox today at the toll-free phone number listed above. One of our specialists will be happy to answer any questions you may have.