How Opioid Antagonists Protect Against Overdose

Throughout the United States, it is becoming easier for the general public to get their hands on an opioid antagonist. And due to the opioid epidemic, these opioid antagonist kits are actually available at pharmacies over the counter, which means that there is no prescription needed. But what exactly is an opioid antagonist, and can it really help to combat the opioid overdose epidemic?

Below, we will review everything you need to know about opioid overdoses, including how to protect yourself and others by having an opioid antagonist on hand. Most importantly, we’ll walk you through the process of how to use an opioid antagonist and the steps you need to take to stay safe after an opioid overdose.

What Is an Opioid Antagonist?

Naloxone treatment

In books and films, an antagonist is usually the character who opposes the hero. But in the case of drug addiction, an opioid antagonist is actually something that reverses the actions of an opioid overdose. These opioid antagonists can also serve as a way to eliminate prescription drug cravings when somebody is going through a detoxification process. In these cases, the opioid antagonist works to help people heal from opioid addiction as well as an addiction to substances like meth.

An opioid antagonist for overdose prevention typically comes in the form of a medication that can be administered through a nasal spray or with a shot. One well-known type of opioid antagonist is called Narcan, otherwise known by its generic name of naloxone.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of different reasons why somebody might be using opioids. For some people, opioids like painkillers are prescribed legally by their doctors to treat chronic conditions or for relief after surgery, injury, etc. However, these drugs are highly addictive, and thus can be abused. You might be at risk of having an opioid overdose if you do any of the following:

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  • Use more than the prescribed dosage
  • Going to different doctors to get more medication
  • Taking the prescription in times of mental health distress

All of these things are signs that you might have an opioid addiction, which can lead to an overdose. When someone is having an opioid overdose, the body begins to experience severe symptoms, such as loss of consciousness or the inability to breathe. Simply put, an opioid antagonist stops the body from having these symptoms. This can be the difference between life and death.

What Do You Do During an Opioid Overdose?

You can purchase an opioid antagonist kit at a local drug store. The kits usually contain one or two doses of Narcan as well as instructions on how to administer the medication. So, if you have a Narcan kit on hand and you see somebody having an opioid overdose, the best thing is to act fast, contact medical professionals, and follow the instructions in the kit. Most often, the steps to administer a Narcan kit include:

  1. Contact emergency services for help
  2. Insert the tip of the nasal applicator into one nostril or inject the shot into a large muscle on the body
  3. Administer the medicine
  4. If effective, the medication will work within minutes. Assess to see if the patient is breathing and/or can regain consciousness
  5. If the medication does not halt the symptoms of the overdose, prepare to repeat the steps with a second dose as you wait for medical professionals to arrive

Now, even if the opioid antagonist works and helps the person to breathe and become alert once again, this doesn’t mean that they are out of the woods yet. Rather, the benefits of Narcan are temporary. This means that the overdose can start up again unless the person receives appropriate medical attention. Then, after they are physically able to recover from the overdose, it’s time to heal from the root of the issue: addiction and mental health issues.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

opioid addiction treatment

Addiction is a condition that impacts a person on a physical, mental, and emotional level. It is very common for people who struggle with an opioid addiction in particular to also have some mental health concerns that need to be addressed. Thus, opioid addiction treatment should work to approach all areas of the person’s wellbeing.

At Ridgeview Hospital, this type of treatment is known as a co-occurring substance use disorder program. We offer many different methods of treating co-occurring disorders with some of the most effective being:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Activity and exercise

In psychotherapy, you or your loved one will have the opportunity to work with mental health professionals to talk about any mental health concerns, such as anxiety or depression, that could contribute to your prescription drug use. Through this therapy, you will learn valuable skills to manage stress so that you do not feel the need to turn to drugs or alcohol in future stressful situations. This greatly reduces the risk of you suffering from an opioid overdose in the future—with the right skills, you will feel prepared to face emotional triggers using healthy coping mechanisms.

Similarly, group therapy gives you the chance to talk about any experiences you might have had with an opioid antagonist or surviving an overdose. The unique feature with group therapy is that you will be able to lean on your peers for support and vice versa. Here, you will see that you are not alone in your fight against addiction and mental health disorders.

To round off your emotional and mental recovery, we encourage physical activity and exercise that is appropriate for your specific needs. If you were prescribed opioids to deal with pain, you should not have to worry about choosing between discomfort and addiction. 

It’s possible to manage your pain and create a healthy lifestyle for yourself without relying entirely on substances that threaten your life. Instead, you can learn how to move or exercise in a way that helps strengthen your body and reduces discomfort so that you don’t have to worry about the risk of overdose just to find pain relief.

Find Recovery at Ridgeview Hospital

The services listed above are just a few of our treatment options for co-occurring disorders. Our dedicated staff of mental health professionals also offer psychological assessments and psychiatric evaluations to get you started on a recovery path that’s created specifically for your needs.

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