Narcan is a life-saving medication that reverses the fatal effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone comes in several forms, including Narcan, which is the nasal spray, and an injectable formulation. Narcan is available at most pharmacies in Massachusetts and through local organizations. MassHealth and some other insurance providers have worked to make Narcan more accessible, which is why many people are eligible for free Narcan in Massachusetts.
Narcan is available without a prescription to everyone, no matter what kind of health insurance you do or do not have. If you cannot get it for free, the cost for a two-dose kit usually ranges between $30 to $50.
In Massachusetts, most insurance providers cover the cost of Narcan. MassHealth, the Medicaid insurance provider in Massachusetts covers Narcan free of charge from a pharmacy. Check with your insurance provider to see if Narcan is covered and what your co-pay would be if it isn’t free.
According to the Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline, without insurance, a two-dose Narcan kit will cost between $30 and $50 at a pharmacy in Massachusetts.1
Every Walgreens and CVS pharmacy in Massachusetts has a “Narcan standing order.” That means they should always have Narcan available to anyone who asks for it. Many other pharmacies in Massachusetts have the same policy. Call ahead to make sure they have it available before you head to the pharmacy.
Narcan is available from most pharmacies in Massachusetts. You can get a prescription from your doctor and the pharmacy will fill it and bill your insurance like any other prescription. You can also go directly to a pharmacy and request a naloxone kit without a prescription.
There are a few naloxone varieties available, so be sure to let them know which type you prefer. Narcan, the nasal spray, is much easier to use and is designed for people without medical training to administer.
In addition to pharmacies, there are organizations across Massachusetts that have free Narcan programs.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health currently has an Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution program. This program offers training to individuals who are likely to witness or experience an opioid overdose on how to use Narcan and other types of naloxone.2
The training covers:2
You must complete the training before you can receive a naloxone kit.
If you live near Boston, there is an Overdose Prevention training program available from the Boston Public Health Commission. It covers the same steps as the program offered by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Participants receive a Narcan rescue kit when they have completed the training.3
When a person has taken too much of a drug for the body to handle, an overdose occurs. Unfortunately, opioid overdoses are fairly common in Massachusetts. In fact, approximately 88% of drug overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2018 involved at least one opioid.4
Drug overdoses are also one of the leading causes of death in Massachusetts. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 2,168 deaths by drug overdose in Massachusetts in 2017. This is the sixth-highest leading cause of death in the state.5
Narcan and other types of naloxone are opioid antagonists. They block the receptors that the opioid drug attaches to and reverse the effects of an overdose. Narcan acts quickly and can help restore normal breathing within minutes to potentially save a person’s life.
If you suspect a person has overdosed on an opioid drug, you should look for some of the following symptoms:6
An opioid overdose is a life-threatening emergency. That is why it is so important to act quickly and call 911 if you think someone has overdosed. Besides saving someone’s life, calling 911 can also connect someone with the opioid addiction treatment they need. Once stabilized at the hospital, the hospital can refer the person to a Boston drug rehab treatment center.
Narcan and other forms of naloxone are designed to be easy to administer. There are four types of naloxone available: a multi-step nasal spray, single-step nasal spray, auto-injector, and intramuscular injection.
We are going to focus on the two most common types of naloxone, the single-step nasal spray, and the intramuscular injection.
For the single-step nasal spray, which is usually sold under the brand name Narcan, do the following:
If you are using the intramuscular injection, following these steps:
No matter which type of naloxone you administer, it is important to stay with the patient. If they do not respond to the Narcan within 3-5 minutes, you should give them another dose. Call 911 and use rescue breathing if you can while you wait for emergency help.
The effects of Narcan only last for about 30-90 minutes. Most opioids will have effects that last longer than that, so once the naloxone wears off, it’s possible the person may return to overdosing. If that happens, you may need to administer Narcan again if medical help has not yet arrived.
Massachusetts’ Good Samaritan Law protects those calling 911 during an overdose from getting charged with possession of a controlled substance. This law encourages more people to call 911 during an overdose and increases the likelihood that a life will be saved.7
After you have called 911, stay with the person who has overdosed. Make sure to turn them on their side so they won’t choke if they vomit. When the paramedics arrive, let them know that you gave the person Narcan or another form of naloxone and when you administered it.
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