Can Young Adult Polysubstance Use Be Prevented?
Krystina Murray ❘
According to a new study, young adults in the United States (aged 18-25 years) are reporting increasingly high rates of polysubstance use.
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Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, and Walmart are all confirmed to carry the medication starting today and expect to have nationwide availability by Thursday, September 8th.
Healthcare officials hope this will be an effective stride in preventing Opioid overdose fatalities, which have steeply risen over the last few years, with approximately 80,000 deaths reported in 2021.
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Already commonplace in hospitals and drug rehab facilities, Narcan is a nasal spray version of Naloxone, a drug that temporarily blocks an Opioid’s effect on the brain.
Narcan comes in a single-dose (4 milligrams), one-time-use nasal spray applicator and requires no previous experience or education to use. Once the medication is sprayed into the person’s nostril, effects are usually seen in two to three minutes.
If administered when a person is experiencing a life-threatening Opioid overdose, notably decreased or ceased respiratory function, Narcan can stave off the effects of the Opioid for 20-30 minutes, allowing breathing function to normalize and providing time for medical treatment to arrive.
It is important to note that Narcan is intended as an emergency intervention; therefore, medical assistance should be sought as soon as possible to further stabilize and treat the person experiencing the overdose.
Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, and Walmart offer both in-store and online purchasing options for the life-saving drug and say it will be placed throughout the stores, such as near the pharmacy, the registers, and the pain care aisle.
Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Walgreens, Kevin Ban, reiterated the importance of providing easy access to Narcan and stated, “We are committed to educating and making it easier for all Americans to have this life-saving medicine available in their first aid kits in case of an emergency…overdoses can happen to anyone, regardless of age, background or other factors.”
Narcan will be sold in a two-dose box at the listed price of $44.99.
Medicaid programs in states like California, Oregon, and Massachusetts have already announced that they will cover the cost of the drug. Some private and public health insurance providers may also cover the drug’s cost (though a prescription may still be necessary).
Bulk prices can be offered to state health departments and public interest groups who plan to distribute the drugs to local rehab clinics and supervised consumption sites.
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While acknowledging that this is a step in the right direction, some addiction experts pinpoint price and access routes as potential barriers to getting Narcan into the hands of those who need it most.
Some say that the price is still too high to be considered widely accessible and that those who are unhoused or in lower socioeconomic classes may not be able to afford the drug.
Likewise, needing to speak to a pharmacist or store associate to obtain the drug might deter potential users who want to avoid the stigma that still exists around drug use.
However, despite these barriers, they recognize that any increase in Narcan availability carries the potential to help save lives for Opioid-users and other drug users alike, as drugs like Cocaine and Xanax are increasingly tainted with the deadly Opioid, Fentanyl.
With the approval of over-the-counter sales, Narcan competitors will be seeking to hit the shelves soon.
RiVive, another Naloxone nasal spray, has already received FDA approval and is looking to enter the market in 2024. Generic Naloxone is also still readily available with a prescription.
Other forms of Naloxone, like those packaged in pre-loaded syringes and those of higher doses, are also available (though still with a prescription).
An addiction to Opioids can increase your risk of experiencing severe side effects and Opioid overdose. Don’t delay seeking help any longer; reach out to a treatment provider today to see what rehab options are available.
Jessica Sherer earned her B.A. in English from Ashford University and has over eight years of copyediting experience in healthcare education. Dedicated to providing clear and useful information, she hopes her work will help to support those affected by addiction.