Frequently asked questions
Why is opioid addiction more important than alcoholism? Isn’t alcoholism a bigger problem?
Ideally, anyone with a substance use problem should have access to treatment and recovery support services. However, opioid overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for U.S. adults surpassing motor vehicle crashes.
Is there overlap between all these addictions?
It’s not unusual for people to have problems with multiple different substances; however, the respiratory depression that can be caused by opioids make them particularly deadly. The Narcan, a lifesaving medication, this grant provides can reverse that respiratory depression and save lives.
Why are wasting money on this? If people want to do drugs, why do we want to save them from an overdose?
This issue is of great fiscal importance to our community. If people with substance use problems get the help they need, our community will be healthier and more productive. People in recovery can work, go to school, raise their own children – they become contributing members of our society rather than over-burdening our jails, healthcare resources, and child welfare system. Also, remember, people do recover from this disease. It’s not easy but it happens every day.
Why is EMS doing follow-up visits if there’s no place to send people for treatment?
We’ve already had some really great success stories where EMS has been able to pair overdose survivors with Peer Recovery Coaches from SACADA. Both the EMS follow-up visits and the Peer Recovery Coaching are completely free of charge because of the funding this grant provides, and additional funding received by SACADA. Admittedly, more funding is needed to ensure that anyone who needs treatment services is able to access them. We can do this work for $12-16 dollars a day with state and private funders.
How expensive is the treatment?
The Center for Healthcare Services has some state-funded treatment slots for folks who qualify. Other centers here in town can provide medication assisted treatment for as low as $12-16 dollars a day. We are hopeful there will be additional treatment slots funded by the state and other agencies in the future. Further, UTH San Antonio School of Nursing and the local non-profit Crosspoint, Inc. is currently partnering on a new program called Casa Mia which provides recovery housing and support services for women and children. Casa Mia is grant funded and completely free of charge.
Is there a medicine for opioid addiction?
Yes, there is very effective, FDA approved medication for treating opioid use disorder. Further, the UTHSA Med School has a new program that provides training for healthcare providers who are interested in prescribing these lifesaving medications.
Why do you think giving out Narcan will help slow the opioid epidemic?
There’s only one criterion that must be met to enter long-term recovery. You have to be alive. While admittedly, Narcan alone will not solve all of our problems, it can keep folks alive until they’re ready to seek treatment and recovery services. We’ve already had multiple stories about folks having Narcan with them and saving the life of a loved one. This is all about being prepared and then taking advantage of that opportunity to offer a path to recovery.
Is Narcan addictive?
Narcan has no psychoactive or addictive qualities and few side effects. The drug is harmless if given in error for the wrong type of overdose. Narcan works by bumping the opioids of the opioid receptors and then preventing them from reattaching. It’s like getting the wrong key stuck in a lock. The person wakes up and begins breathing again.
Aren’t we putting our first responders in danger? How can they trust a person who is high to respond safely in a life-threatening emergency?
Administering Narcan is simple. It comes in several formulations but with grant we’re purchasing Narcan Nasal spray which is very easy to use. The nozzle is inserted into a nostril and the plunger is pressed. The person doesn’t need to be breathing for it to work. Research shows that Narcan is easy enough for a person to administer without instructions even in a situation as stressful as an overdose. And Narcan already has an outstanding track record: since 1996, over 10,000 overdose reversals have been performed using it.
Won’t surviving an overdose with naloxone encourage someone to keep using?
Research shows that Narcan not only does NOT encourage drug use but has been shown to decrease it in some circumstances. By blocking the effects of opioids, Narcan can produce really unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Certainly, no one would intentionally want to experience this, especially a drug user.
Will Narcan keep drug users from seeking treatment?
The idea here is to save lives. People can’t seek treatment if they’re no longer alive. Naloxone gives people another chance to get the help they need when they’re ready. The experience of almost dying and being saved with Narcan can be a pretty powerful motivator to seek help.
What is the difference between naloxone and Narcan?
Naloxone is not a new medication. It was invented in 1961 and patented in the US in 1966. Then in 1971 the FDA approved naloxone for treatment of opioid overdose by intravenous or intramuscular injection. Naloxone is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medications. Eventually, in 2015, the intranasal formulation known as Narcan was FDA approved. Narcan is a trade name. There are now other formulations and brand names for naloxone, and many people continue to call these products “Narcan.” However, the proper generic name is “naloxone.”
What is “Saturation?”
We must all support strategic and evidence-based efforts to prevent overdoses from occurring in the first place. However, when an overdose occurs, the likelihood of administering naloxone, reversing that overdose, and saving a life is greatly correlated with having naloxone available and accessible on the scene. This entails naloxone into the hands of people who are most likely to be present and respond to an overdose. At a community level this is known as “saturation.”
Where should I place and distribute Narcan throughout my facility?
The key is to make naloxone accessible, and to ensure that people in the building know the location of naloxone. Nobody should need a key, or passcode, or need to break a lockbox to access naloxone. Every second counts.
If I call 911 during an overdose, could I be arrested?
No! Due to the Good Samaritan Act, individuals are protected against most charges when reporting an overdose situation.
Are fentanyl or "other powerful opioid" resistant to naloxone?
There is no pharmacological evidence that fentanyl or its analogs are pseudo-irreversible or noncompetitive agonists at opioid receptors. The apparent failure for naloxone to reverse an overdose is more likely to be caused by other factors, such as errors in administration, higher potency fentanyl, high opioid doses, or contamination of a fentanyl with another central
nervous system depressant, such as benzodiazepines. Giving multiple doses may be necessary, and it is okay, but it is important to try and wait 2-3 minutes between doses so as not to precipitate extreme withdrawal symptoms.
Does naloxone access increase and promote opioid use?
No, current studies/evidence do not support a link between naloxone and more or riskier opioid
Can naloxone be administered to all people?
Yes, naloxone is very safe. It only has one action, and that is to displace opioids from the mu receptor in our brain and restore respiration. It can be administered to all ages, to those who are pregnant, have heart or kidney disease, or "other health condition."
What if my naloxone is expired?
Studies have shown that naloxone remains viable for several years beyond the expiration date. Even if potency were diminished, administering expired naloxone is safe and justified to save a life.
What if my naloxone was exposed to high temperatures?
Studies have also shown that naloxone remains viable after exposure to extreme temperatures, although potency may be impacted. Always try to store naloxone at room temperature.