Trusted Content

Are Narcan Parties A Growing Trend?

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 6, 2019

Narcan is an opioid antagonist that has been used by first responders to help treat individuals who have overdosed on opioids. This medication has recently been made available to the public to allow anyone to help in an overdose situation. Narcan, however, is not without risk and, if abused, can have serious consequences.

The opioid epidemic is a growing issue in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the opioid epidemic affects over 12.5 million people each year – a number that continues to grow. With over 33,000 deaths associated with opioid overdose, health officials are scrambling to slow down the epidemic as quickly as possible.

Drugs like Narcan and Evzio, which have been used in the past to reverse an opioid overdose and restore breathing to the individual, have now been made available over the counter and without a prescription. This was an attempt to make the drug more accessible to individuals struggling with opioid addiction, who are less likely to reach out to medical professionals in the presence of an overdose. New trends, like Narcan parties, show that putting these drugs in the hands of opioid users is not a foolproof plan to combat the opioid epidemic.

What Is Narcan?

Developed in response to opioid overdoses in 1961, Narcan is the name brand of a drug known as naloxone. It is a vital drug in today’s world, and is even on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines. Narcan, along with its counterpart Evzio, are categorized as opioid antagonists. When a drug is categorized as an antagonist, it means that it inhibits or interferes with the physiological action of another drug, which would be opioids in the case of Narcan.

Narcan works by blocking opioid receptors by sticking to them without activating them. In the case of an opioid overdose, the Narcan would bump the opioids that have already bound to the opioid receptors. Once Narcan breaks the bond between the opioids and opioid receptors, brain signals controlling breathing and blood pressure can move freely throughout the central nervous system again, generally restoring breathing to the patient within minutes. Narcan can also be used to reverse the loss of consciousness in a patient, as well as extreme drowsiness.

In the past, Narcan has only been available to emergency respondents and physicians, however, it has now been made available over the counter recently in an attempt to make it easily accessible to those that use opioids. There is a split opinion in the medical community on whether this change in accessibility is helpful or not to the epidemic as a whole. On one side, many lives are able to be saved and opioid users do not need to make a moral decision on whether or not to call 911 in the case of a friend’s overdose. On the other side, however, opioid users have more confidence when taking the drug because they believe they can be revived if they do overdose, which can result in reckless abuse of the drug.

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Dangers Of Using Narcan

Narcan has be credited with saving thousands of lives since its development in the 1960s, but it is not a side-effect free drug. Without the presence of opioids in your system, Narcan will have virtually no effect on your body what so ever. However, with the presence of opioids in your system, it can present rapid withdrawal symptoms that can be uncomfortable and very dangerous.

Typical withdrawal symptoms from opioids include dry heaving, insomnia, anxiety, depression, nausea, vomiting, and sweating. The onset of these symptoms is typically gradual, hitting their peak around the third day following the last dose of opioids. With Narcan, however, the opioids are bumped from the opioid receptors which can result in rapid withdrawal from the drug. These symptoms are similar to typical withdrawal symptoms from opioids, but can feel much more intense.

Narcan has also been known to block some of the pain relieving endorphins that occur naturally in your system, which can make some of the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms even worse. Often people who have been administered Narcan after an opioid overdose report nausea, vomiting, sweating, uncontrollable trembling, headache, and even abnormal heart rhythms and seizures.

What Is A Narcan Party?

One of the biggest opposing arguments to making Narcan available over the counter is that it gives opioid users a sense of confidence and invincibility when it comes to taking the drug. Some individuals who suffer from opioid addiction feel that, in a way, they cannot overdose on opioids because Narcan will simply revive them. They have lost a sense of fear that was keeping their doses in check in some way.

This fear of overconfidence has supposedly materialized into reality with the rise of something called a Narcan party. The explanation of a Narcan party is pretty simple – it is a gathering of individuals who purposely take a large enough dose of opioids to overdose, only to be revived by Narcan immediately afterward. It has been reported that users may even feel a rush from the Narcan, which tends to leave them groggy and disoriented after a few minutes.

Narcan parties are not necessarily a new trend, as it was not uncommon in the past to find groups of individuals who intentionally overdose in public places because they knew they would be found and revived by emergency personnel within a few minutes. Today’s Narcan parties, however, are taking place at home. With the introduction of over the counter Narcan available in an easy to use nasal spray, opioid users are able to obtain the drug easily and use it in the privacy of their own home.

Despite being able to revive someone from an overdose, this practice can be extremely dangerous. Slowed breathing in general can be detrimental to neuron and brain development. The brain requires a certain amount of oxygen to maintain its current cellular growth, and any interruption in this flow of oxygen can cause brain cells to die or slow the generation of new cells. With each opioid overdose, the generation of new cells is interrupted and stunted. Additionally, the longer it takes someone to administer the Narcan, the longer the brain must go without oxygen which can cause permanent and irreversible damage.

Mixed Reports

It should be noted that reporting of these Narcan parties is under some amount of scrutiny. There are some individuals who believe these reports are only rumors spread by those who are against Narcan being easily accessible over the counter, as they believe Narcan encourage the cycle of addiction and will not help us in the fight against the opioid epidemic. While it is possible that groups of individuals have gathered to experiment with opioids and Narcan together, this does not necessarily mean it is a growing trend in the United States.

Get Help Today

Narcan is not a fix for the opioid epidemic, and should only be used in cases of extreme emergency. Not only is the use of opioids detrimental to your body and health, but the practice of repeated overdoses can permanently damage your brain and central nervous system. If you or someone you know suffers from opioid addiction, or has utilized Narcan as a recreational drug, it is important to reach out to someone for professional help.

Our addiction treatment specialists are experts when it comes to finding you a drug rehabilitation facility that fits your needs and expectations. With many different programs, facilities, and clinical approaches available, it is possible to tailor treatment plan to you specifically. Your call is always confidential, and our specialists are waiting to answer your questions around the clock. Get started on your journey to recovery today and give us a call. - Intentional vs. Unintentional Overdose Deaths

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