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Pack Naloxone – You May Save A Life Pack Naloxone – You May Save A Life
Opioid deaths are taking a toll on American citizens. The problem is so bad, it’s been labeled an epidemic. Here are a few grim... Pack Naloxone – You May Save A Life

Opioid deaths are taking a toll on American citizens. The problem is so bad, it’s been labeled an epidemic. Here are a few grim statistics, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Approximately 69,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2020. 82% caused by ingesting synthetic opioids.

More than 107,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2021.

Opioid overdoses have claimed over 560,000 people since 1999, when the epidemic began.

What does all this have to do with four-wheeling? Directly, nothing. But as a public health matter, the opioid crisis is seeping into every facet of our lives. There is a possibility – remote, perhaps, but it exists – that you’ll encounter a person experiencing an overdose. That’s a sad reality of life today.

The good news is that an effective countermeasure is now available over the counter. I encourage everyone to consider carrying the product.

Miracle antidote is naloxone hydrochloride

Known best by the brand name Narcan®, naloxone hydrochloride quickly counters the effects of an opioid. It can literally bring the person back from the brink of death. It is effective against a wide range of opioids, legal and illegal. Those include Vicodin® and oxycodone, fentanyl and heroin.

Naloxone is nonaddictive, and its side effects are relatively minor. Especially considering the alternative: death.

Different formats of naloxone

Naloxone is available in three forms:

  • Nasal spray
  • Self-injector
  • Needle and vial

I recommend the nasal spray. It is the easiest to carry and administer. That is the type used by police and fire departments across the country. The auto-injector would be my second choice. It works like an EpiPen®.

The drug targets opioids. As such, if none are present in the person’s system, naloxone will have no effect. Don’t worry about giving it to someone with another condition. (Of course, if the person is suffering a heart attack or other serious condition, act accordingly.)

Naloxone is relatively inexpensive and easy to purchase. I recently visited a drugstore to replace my supply (it had expired). I was pleasantly surprised to learn I could buy it over the counter. Even better was the price. The pharmacy charges $40 for a package of two. But when they ran it through my insurance, the cost was only $10. Your cost may differ, but even at $40 per package, it’s a reasonable price.

How to administer naloxone

Someone who has overdosed will be unconscious. Treat the situation as any other emergency. (Start by checking for pulse and breathing.) Are the pupils pinpoint? That’s often an indication of an overdose. Make sure someone calls 911.

Try to wake the person. Rub the chest and tap on the face. Say something like, “Hey, buddy, are you all right?” If they are verbally responsive, you might get some idea as to what occurred.

If no response, and there is a pulse, apply the naloxone. Tilt the head back as you administer the naloxone then turn the person on his side. (The person may vomit when coming to.)

To use, peel off the tab at the tip of the applicator. Grip the unit between your index and middle fingers. Insert the applicator entirely in one nostril, and press the plunger with your thumb. (Just like injecting with a needle.) The person will receive the full dose of naloxone.

The product should take effect in two to three minutes. If the person doesn’t come around, use the second dose in the other nose.

How to carry and store naloxone

Like all medicines, naloxone must be stored properly. Ideally, keep the product below 77 F (but don’t freeze). In any case, do not exceed 104 F, and avoid direct sunlight. The interior of a vehicle can get really hot in the summertime. I suggest carrying the naloxone in a clothes bag, briefcase or similar item that you keep with you.

Keep the vials in the box they come in. For additional protection, place those boxes in a plastic Tupperware-like container. That will prevent the vials from being crushed.

Early this year the FDA announced that Emergent BioSolutions is extending the shelf-life of its newly manufactured 4 mg nasal spray products from three years to four years. That’s good news for anyone who purchases those products.

Sadly, overdoses and deaths from opioids – legal and illegal – are at epidemic levels in the U.S. With naloxone now available over the counter, it makes sense to purchase a package. The product is inexpensive and very effective. I suspect that, after a while, people will be carrying the naval spray version just like many now carry EpiPens®. It’s better to have it and not use it, than not to have it.

PS – All 50 states and the District of Columbia have a Good Samaritan law that protects you from civil liability when you act in good faith, not seeking compensation, to render emergency medical or non-medical care at the scene of an emergency.

PSS – Cover image supplied by Mark Oniffrey, through Wikimedia Commons.


Tom Severin

Tom Severin is an International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers Association© certified professional 4WD Trainer and a Wilderness First Responder (WFR), and President, Badlands Off Road Adventures.