Police say Narcan works, but isn't a replacement for treatment


EAST PROVIDENCE — While Narcan is effective, it's carried and used by many law enforcement and public safety personnel, it's not a cure-all, doesn't replace necessary treatment methods and will ultimately not save lives in the end. That's the message East Providence Police want the public to understand.

According to the Overdose Prevention and Education Network, Narcan is a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose and is available over-the-counter. It blocks opioids from attaching to opioid receptors in the brain. The generic name of Narcan is naloxone — they are the same thing.  Narcan has no other effects and cannot be used to get high. Someone cannot overdose on Narcan. Narcan has no potential for abuse.

Narcan is active for about 30 to 90 minutes in the body. If you give someone Narcan to reverse an opioid overdose, the Narcan may wear off before the effects of the opioids wear off. The person could overdose again.  This depends on several things, including: the person’s metabolism (how quickly the body processes things); how much drug the person used in the first place; how well the liver works to process things; and if the person uses again

Because Narcan blocks opioids from acting in the brain, it is possible that it can cause withdrawal symptoms in someone that has a habit.  After giving someone Narcan, the person may feel dope sick and want to use again right away. Do not let them use again for a couple of hours. If they use, they can overdose again once the Narcan wears off.  If the person uses when there is still Narcan in the system, they will not feel it at all. Narcan will knock the drug out of the opioid receptors in the brain.

"It's a resource we use, but it's an emergency response. It works, but it will be harder the next time, and it may be too late. Families and friends think they're helping with Narcan, but they should be seeking treatment. Eventually their number will be up," East Providence Police Chief Joseph Tavares. "Heroin addicts are dying. They're being saved temporarily by hospital and rescue personnel, but their loved ones need to get them help, get them into recovery programs."

Editor's note: This is the fifth and last story in a week-long series highlighting the growing heroin epidemic in East Providence and around the country.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.