Over-the-counter Narcan now available in pharmacies

Narcan product
Narcan product(MGM)
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 4:38 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - About a week ago, a two-pack of the opioid overdose reversal drug, Narcan, became available for over-the-counter purchase for about $44 across the U.S.

Some pharmacies, like Thrifty White, have already started stocking it on their shelves.

The FDA approved the nasal spray, Narcan, for over-the-counter use back in March in order to combat the opioid crisis. Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Catherine Hixson said while making the drug available without a prescription is a positive move, it does come with a few concerns.

“The big thing we worry about is somebody will give this medication, and it’ll start to wear off. So they’ll give this medication, they’ll be improved for an hour or two, and then if it starts to wear off, their breathing might kind of be suppressed again, and they might go take a nap again and not wake up,” Dr. Hixson said.

Dr. Hixson said another thing to keep in mind is that if you start using opioids after not using them for a while, you have a higher risk of overdosing.

However, she said Narcan being available over the counter is ultimately a good thing, and administering it when you’re not sure it’s needed will most likely only result in the receiver having an irritated nose.

Sue Kahler is the substance abuse prevention coordinator at Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health. She said making Narcan available without a prescription could help de-stigmatize the need for it.

“It’s saying that it’s okay. It’s okay to purchase this. It’s okay to have this on hand,” Kahler said.

If you’re prescribed an opioid, you can receive Narcan for free when you pick up your medication.

Kahler said the signs that you need to use Narcan include, but aren’t limited to: slow and shallow breathing, gasping for air while sleeping, difficulty waking, and pin-pointed pupils in a dark environment. If you do need to use Narcan, Dr. Hixon said you should still seek emergency medical services as well.

Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health will be providing free Narcan training on September 20, which you’ll need to register for ahead of time. If you or someone you know wants help with an opioid addiction, contact the Heartview Foundation.