Should Narcan Training Be The New CPR?

By Kelly Burch 09/27/19

“Who should carry Narcan? The same people who should carry an EpiPen: anyone who’s around someone who might need it. And, in today’s opioid crisis, that’s nearly everyone.”

Image: 
person practicing CPR
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Each year, 12 million Americans are trained to deliver lifesaving CPR. Vastly fewer are trained to use the opioid overdose reversing drug, Narcan. 

Dr. Mark Calarco, national medical director for clinical diagnostics of American Addiction Centers, says that we need to make Narcan training the new CPR, getting more people to carry the lifesaving drug and administer it in emergencies. 

“With tens of thousands of American lives lost each year to drug overdose, it’s critical that we begin training Americans to administer Narcan (naloxone), just as we did with CPR, to help save the lives of our neighbors, family members and friends,” Calarco writes for MedCity News.

Surgeon General Wants All Americans To Carry Narcan

In April, Surgeon General Jerome Adams called on all Americans to carry Narcan and learn how to use it. 

“We should think of naloxone like an EpiPen or CPR. Unfortunately, over half of the overdoses that are occurring are occurring in homes, so we want everyone to be armed to respond,” Adams told NPR at the time

Stigma Persists

And yet, stigma against mental illness and addiction has kept this from happening, Calarco writes. 

“While there’s some controversy over making Narcan so readily and widely available, the reluctance is based mostly on the stigma associated with addiction and mental health issues, and an overall lack of understanding about how addiction impacts an individual and the community. The truth is, addiction and overdose can affect anyone. It doesn’t discriminate based on income, gender, ethnicity, or background,” he writes.

While Calarco says he would "encourage everyone to take a CPR course," he noted that CPR is physically taxing and difficult to learn, and 45% of people who need it will die from their condition anyway. 

“In contrast, administering naloxone (Narcan) is relatively easy for non-medical personnel, and giving it quickly after an opioid overdose rapidly reverses respiratory depression—the primary cause of death. It is extremely safe, effective, and works in seconds,” Calarco writes. 

Forty-nine states allow anyone to carry and administer Narcan. In most areas, getting trained is as simple as going to your pharmacy, asking for a kit (which is usually covered by insurance) and listening to the pharmacist for a few minutes. This is a step everyone should take, Calarco writes.

Saving Lives

“Who exactly should carry Narcan? The same people who should carry an EpiPen: anyone who’s around someone who might need it. And, in today’s opioid crisis, that’s nearly everyone.”

Taking this small step could be lifesaving, he writes. 

“Carry it with you at all times and hope you never have to use it,” Calarco writes. “But know that you could be the difference between life and death for someone if you do.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.