Demi Lovato has talked openly about addictions she thought she’d overcome. Recently, she relapsed and overdosed on opioids. It was just last month that Lovato was rushed to the emergency room in an L.A. hospital. Paramedics that arrived at her home in Hollywood said she was given Narcan. This is the main name brand for a drug called naloxone. The medication reverses effects of opioids which includes opioid overdose.
Many people have survived an otherwise fatal overdose from heroin, Fentanyl, and prescription opioids. The 25-year old was given a dose of Narcan by one of her friends before paramedics showed up. They apparently kept an emergency dose of Narcan because they foresaw the potential of her using again.
Naloxone has been administered to reverse effects of opioid drugs, which is almost immediate. The respiratory and cardiovascular system begins to function properly again within a short amount of time. It also doubles as a useful drug for opioid detox. Especially with the introduction of Fentanyl into street drugs, naloxone has become even more important than ever. Here’s what you need to know about Demi Lovato, her terrifying experience, and how naloxone prevented bodily harm from overdose.
What Demi Lovato Has to Say About Overdosing
Lovato had been partying the night before she overdosed. There were two friends at her house when it happened. They had been anticipating the potential of her overdosing because she had been using so much recently. Two of her friends were at Lovato’s house when she overdosed and they called 911. Once the paramedics arrived, they encountered hysterical friends and an unconscious Demi Lovato. They saved her life by administering Narcan.
Sources say that she was given another dose of naloxone by paramedics. This is because it wears off in about 30 minutes. After 90 minutes, it’s completely out of the system. The paramedics would have administered another dose to ensure she didn’t stop breathing again.
Demi Lovato made a statement about the overdose on her Instagram account. She admitted that she relapsed and is looking to focus on sobriety and a road to recovery. Often, when people overdose from opioids, they become aware of the damage and risks of using. This seems to be the case with Lovato and thanks to Narcan, she has the chance.
What Could Have Been the Outcome if Narcan Wasn’t Administered to Demi Lovato?
Like so many other celebrities, Lovato may have died before paramedics arrived. That or she might have caused irreversible brain damage to herself. There have been many other people who weren’t so lucky. They died alone or around people that were helpless to save them.
Heath Ledger died from a combination of opioid drugs at age 28. When he was found dead, they found OxyContin and Vicodin in his system. He also mixed benzodiazepines which further causes the heart to slow down to the point that no oxygen gets to the brain. While naloxone wouldn’t reverse effects of benzos in the system, the mixture of opioids could have been alleviated, giving him a fighting chance to survive. Mixing various drugs is extremely dangerous as they can feed off one another, causing greater effect on the body.
When River Phoenix died, he was in public with friends and family. He had taken a mixture of morphine and cocaine. This turned to be fatal for him and he overdosed in front of the Viper Room, Johnny Depp’s nightclub. Despite the fact his sister and friends were around him, they were unable to save him. He died in 1993, prior to naloxone being available for the public in an overdose situation.
The great Elvis Presley was reported to have died from a heart attack. However, the autopsy found that he had codeine in his system when he died, another prescription opioid.
Prince intentionally administered Fentanyl into his system, which killed him quickly. Despite how powerful this drug is (up to 100 times more potent than heroin); naloxone would have reversed the effects and saved his life.
Cory Monteith died in a hotel room in Vancouver, Canada. He overdosed on heroin alone. It’s ironic in a sense because Vancouver is very dedicated to opioid overdose prevention. You can buy naloxone kits as a means of overdose prevention without a prescription.
Janis Joplin was an epic singer but died of a heroin overdose in 1970 long before Narcan was available.
Lovato’s Struggle with Addiction
Demi Lovato has been very vocal about her struggle with addiction. She has opened up about it to educate people on what addiction is, trying to reduce the stigma that the public has about it. In 2010, Lovato sought out addiction treatment. She had realized she had a problem when she got into a fight with a dancer during her tour with the Jonas Brothers.
By 2013, she voluntarily went into a sober living facility. She spoke openly about the constant struggles of having a co-occurring disorder. Lovato not only had an eating disorder and a bipolar disorder but she also developed substance addiction. Treating a co-occurring disorder is challenging because each disorder needs to be addressed. Also, each disorder feeds off the other and it’s challenging to know what symptoms belong to what illness. The good news is that it is possible with specialists in addiction clinics.
In March 2018, Lovato celebrated being sober for six years. If you know anything about this 25-year-old singer, you know that she has been an inspiration for many because of her strength and courage. On her sixth anniversary, she talked about how grateful she was for yet another year of joy, health, and happiness to look forward to. It was four months later that she released a song called “Sober” where she reveals she had relapsed.
Her friends paid attention thankfully and had a naloxone kit available when she did overdose. It saved her life but what exactly is naloxone and how does it work?
What is Naloxone
Naloxone saves lives as an opioid blocker. It is also called a save or rescue shot. It will bring someone back when they have overdosed. The brand names include Narcan and Evzio. It has been used in emergency rooms for overdoses for quite some time and has been FDA approved since 1971.
With stronger opioids like fentanyl available and the increase of opioid abuse, there’s been a movement to make it more accessible. First responders, drug users, and their family members now have greater access to the drug. It immediately reverses overdose symptoms, which prevents death or brain damage.
How Effective is Naloxone?
Naloxone begins working in minutes and is very effective in reversing the effects of opioids. The effectiveness of naloxone depends on the person administering it also. Knowing what to expect during an overdose and checking vitals are an important part of saving someone’s life. This is explained in any naloxone kit also. If someone has overdosed on prescription medications, they may only require one dose. If a person doesn’t respond to a dose, it’s important to give them another dose.
Powerful opioids like fentanyl will usually require more than one dose. The good thing about naloxone is that it’s not addictive and comes with very few side effects. Giving multiple doses won’t have an adverse effect.
Needle exchange facilities have been distributing naloxone for over a decade. It’s been reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that over 26,000 overdoses have been reversed. It’s important to note that it’s not effective in prevention of an overdose. It only works in opioids that are already in the system. Effects of naloxone doesn’t last long so it may need to be re-administered. The drug wears off between 20 to 90 minutes. It is used to rescue someone from the emergency situation of an overdose. The person will still need to get medical attention right away.
What Does Naloxone Work For?
It works for opioids drugs that are both legal and illegal. Prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin, and methadone are an example. It works for street drugs like heroin also. Naloxone is not capable of reversing overdoses that are non-opioid substances. If Demi Lovato had overdosed on a benzodiazepine drug, she would have not been so lucky.
How Does it Work?
It’s important to understand what opioids do to your mind and body. Opioids influence the area of your brain responsible for your breathing. If you take opioids in a high dose, it can slow down, or cause breathing to stop. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist; it binds to opioid receptors in the brain and blocks opioid effects. This allows normal breathing to occur which reverses the overdose. Narcan is also used when septic shock.
If naloxone is sitting in the receptor in the brain, other opioids can’t get to it and activate it. The opioid receptor in the brain has a greater affinity for naloxone so if other opioids are present, naloxone will take their place. Naloxone only works in an opiate overdose situation. You can administer it safely if you suspect someone is overdosing from substances. It won’t harm them but it also won’t save them if it’s not an opioid overdose.
How Long Does it Last For?
Naloxone is temporary and doesn’t take long to wear off. Often, it will wear off faster than the opioid high that has caused the overdose. This is why it’s important to monitor the situation until medical help comes and re-administer if necessary. You may have noticed that Demi Lovato’s friends administered a dose of Narcan and the medics gave her another dose when they arrived. This is because the dose lasts from 20 to 90 minutes.
It depends on the opiate that’s in the body and how much of it was taken too. People can slip back into an overdose when they breathing becomes depressed again. Experts say that for anyone given naloxone, they should have medical attention and be under observations for at least two hours after the last dose. It is possible for a person to die after being given naloxone. It will usually occur 1-2 hours later.
What Happens When Someone is Given Naloxone?
Active withdrawal may occur when you give someone naloxone. Common symptoms include:
- Pain in the muscles.
Coming to after a non-fatal opioid overdose feels awful. The medicine may be effective but sometimes withdrawal symptoms are hard to manage. With heroin withdrawal for example, many intense flu-like symptoms can occur.
Where can someone access naloxone?
The fact that Demi Lovato had her own private stash of Narcan is likely what saved her from overdose. Being able to get Naloxone if you or someone you love has an opioid addiction is important. It’s possible to get naloxone at a pharmacy, health department, community service groups, emergency services, or your doctors office. This does vary between states.
All states will let health care providers prescribe naloxone to people with a risk of opioid overdose. Delaware, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, and Virginia don’t allow third-party prescriptions. This is where doctors can write naloxone prescriptions for family, friends, or harm reduction specialists that may find someone in the midst of an overdose. Every other state does allow you to however.
Pharmacists are given the right to dispense naloxone without a prescription to anyone who may be at risk of overdosing. Many states also promote community-based programs to distribute naloxone at a low cost or for free.
How Much does Naloxone Cost?
The pharmaceutical companies increased the price of naloxone products when it grew in demand. While most people will be given the drug for free or for very little money, it’s quite expensive. Most insurance companies are going to cover the full price of your prescription or it may be a co-pay situation. Over-the-counter naloxone can cost up to $145 (for Narcan) if you are a third-party purchaser.
Evzio is an auto-injector which is not commonly used because it costs about $4,000. Kaleo, the maker of the drug does offer a financial assistance program. This helps those that don’t have insurance or can’t afford medication. Through the public health department, you can usually get a free naloxone kit as part of their overdose response program.
Naloxone Brand Names
Brand names that are used to reverse opioid overdoses include:
Narcan Nasal Spray
Brand names of Naloxone that is used for opioid dependence will have a mixture of other medications. They are narcotic analgesic combinations of buprenorphine and naloxone. The brand names are:
How to Know When You Should Use Narcan
Demi Lovato being open and honest about her addiction problems is likely what saved her life. Her friends were prepared in the event that she overdosed. They saw that she was using again and were on alert. When she did exhibit the symptoms of an opioid overdose, her friends knew what had happened and how to save her. For many, they are silent about their addiction. It’s important to know the signs so you can you can call for help or administer naloxone.
An opioid overdose looks like:
- The person may be unconscious or unusually sleepy.
- They may have a hard time breathing or their breath is extremely shallow.
- The pupils are really small (size of a pinpoint).
It’s important to take other steps to save the person. Even if you have given the person a dose, they may require more which an ambulance attendant can then administer. Also, they may go through severe withdrawal once the naloxone has began working. This is because Narcan immediately reverses opioid drug effects which someone might be dependent on.
The Many Other Lives Saved By Narcan
Lovato is not alone in her battle with opioids and being saved by Narcan. There has been an increase of people dying from opioid death overdoses. In fact, they have increase five fold in a span of 7 years. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that in 2016, drugs like heroin, fentanyl and prescriptions painkillers killed over 42,000 people. This is just in the United States.
This is why Naloxone became such a godsend in the effort of fighting against the opioid epidemic. It is saving lives and not just the lives of celebrities. Since 2015, there have been over 16,000 lives were saved from overdose deaths in New Jersey thanks to Narcan. Pharmacies and doctors promote the naloxone emergency kit as something that everyone should have in their household. Opioid abuse is sadly all too common so even if you’ve never entertained the idea, there is a risk that someone in your home has tried opioids or may in the future.
How is it Administered?
Naloxone is administered in two different ways. It can be injected as an intramuscular injection in the thigh or arm. There is also a spray that is far more convenient. The injectable version will be administered by a medical professional where the spray can be used by anyone. The nasal spray, known as Narcan, comes in 2 mg or 4 mg of naloxone hydrochloride. It’s important to note that once you use the spray, you can’t save the rest for another time. Doses can be re=administered every three minutes and you can alternate nostrils.
The nasal spray became FDA approved in 2015. For many decades, the medical was only administered as a generic viral-and-syringe injectable. It was used by first responders or emergency medical professional.
Now that it’s being used more commonly, the FDA approved Evzio. This is the brand that offers a hand-held prefilled auto-injector. It delivers one dose of naloxone through a retractable needle. It’s much like an EpiPen where the device gives automated instruction verbally. The FDA also approved Narcon which is a prefilled nasal spray.
Narcan is the medication Demi Lovato was given to save her life. It is sprayed into a nostril and then absorbed by the mucus membrane. It’s safe and easy to use which is why it’s being used commonly.
It’s important to note that repeated doses of the drug cannot take the place of emergency care. If someone overdoses on opioids, it’s essential to call 911 immediately, no matter how many Narcan doses are administered.
Statistics on Naloxone
It was in 2015 when the CDC released their report on how to prevent opioid overdose. Their main focus was on naloxone.
- Non-medical professional training on administering naloxone went up by 187% since 2010.
- Most of the incidents where naloxone was used was the result of a loved one saving their life.
- The results of the study created the conclusion that for naloxone to be truly effective, it would need to be available to people who would most likely be present during the overdose.
- Having quick and convenient resources for all to use became the objective.
Facts on Naloxone
- It is not possible to get high on naloxone because it’s an opioid antagonist. It blocks the effects of opioids.
- Naloxone is non-addictive no matter how much you use it.
- It can be administered many times throughout an overdose situation.
- The person will begin to respond and come out of the overdose shortly after administration.
- There are very few side effects that directly occur by using naloxone. The biggest issue is the immediate opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Naloxone vs. Naltrexone
Naloxone and naltrexone have many similarities. They are the most used opioid antagonists for treating dependence of alcohol or drugs. Both drugs stop opioids from getting to the brain but they block them in a different way.
Naltrexone has a greater ability to affect nerve receptors, making it more effective in blocking effects of drugs and alcohol. A long-term opioid blocker takes about 1-2 hours to start working. In a detox center, it’s more likely that they will use naltrexone to help taper off heavier opioid drugs.
This is where naloxone comes in. It is more effective for an emergency situation because of it’s immediate effect.
Naloxone vs. Suboxone
There have been various studies about the effectiveness of naloxone vs. Suboxone. Suboxone is used for dependency of opioids. It is used as part of an overall treatment plan of withdrawing from opioids if you have an addiction. In the Suboxone medication, there are two active ingredients which include buprenorphine (a partial agonist) and naloxone (full opioid agonist). Naloxone, when used in this way, is used to prevent misuse.
Buprenorphine attaches to receptors in the same way opioids do but it will reduce their effects because it blocks the receptors. Once, used as a painkiller, it does act like a normal opioid but it doesn’t create the euphoria. So it prevents the severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
The downside is there is the possibility that one can abuse buprenorphine, though it is believed that because of the naloxone, there is less chance of this.
Naloxone vs. Methadone
Naloxone and methadone are very different drugs. While they both address issues when dealing with opioid abuse and addiction, they work in different ways. Methadone is an opioid that some might use during detox to ease someone’s withdrawal symptoms. Though, there is the risk of death from overdose so naloxone may be used to save someone from a methadone overdose.
Naloxone and methadone are used for different purposes. Methadone is used as a short term method of getting someone off stronger opioid drugs. Naloxone prevents someone from overdosing in an emergency situation.
The side effects of methadone are far greater and more risky than naloxone. There is a possibility of becoming constipated while using it. Other side effects of methadone include:
- Respiratory depression that could result in death.
- Heart problems.
- Death from overdose.
- Potential for abuse, tolerance, and addiction.
- Taking more than prescribed.
In comparison, naloxone has less side effects and most of them would be a result of acute opioid withdrawal. Naloxone would be used to prevent death from opioids and if the user chose to go into rehabilitation, they would potentially use methadone at that point to get past the withdrawal symptom phase.
Narcan Side Effects
Narcan is a life-saving medication. There are common side effects that have less to do with the drug and more to do with sudden drug withdrawal. Naloxone, the working drug in Narcan, reverses all the effects of opioid immediately. This can cause drug withdrawal, which is quite uncomfortable, especially if it’s withdrawal from highly addictive drugs like heroin.
Here are some of the side effects or symptoms of use:
- Anxious feelings.
- Irritated because of uncomfortable cravings.
- Aching in the body.
- Stomach pain.
- Flu-like symptoms; fever, chills, goosebumps, nausea.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Pain in the chest.
More severe side effects include:
- Blood pressure problems.
- Pulmonary edema.
- Abnormal brain functioning.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Weak pulse.
Is it used During Detox?
Yes, naloxone can be used during detox. Studies have shown positive benefits to using it. There is little supervision involved because naloxone can’t be abused. You can’t overdose from it and it’s non-addictive. Naloxone is also used in combination with buprenorphine to help people through treatment. Buprenorphine is an opiate that can give people the same effects as other opioids but not to the same extremes. It has a ceiling effect but if someone is going through painful withdrawal symptoms, they may attempt to abuse the drug.
Naloxone combined with the drug, Suboxone, is what prevents addicts from abusing the buprenorphine. Someone may try to tamper with Suboxone by crushing or injecting it but naloxone causes immediate withdrawal. This will quickly stop the person from trying to abuse the drug because the brain realizes there is no reward coming. Buprenorphine partially activates receptors in the brain while naloxone does not. In fact, it fills and blocks the opioid receptors. Taking a drug like this for detox should always be monitored even if you’re doing an intensive outpatient program for addiction. For people going through this like Demi Lovato, there isn’t always time to enter into a residential program.
Can you get addicted to Naloxone?
One of the main benefits of naloxone is that there is no abuse potential. Naloxone was included in the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. This is because it’s the safest, most effective medicines that exist. It saves lives but not in a way that is comfortable for addicts. Their high is ripped away from them with no reward involved.
Other drugs that are used to stave off opioid use are often just weaker doses of opioids. Addicts can then become addicted to those drugs. This is a pointless circle of addiction that people can’t get out of. Naloxone simply reverses all effects with no addictive potential of it’s own. It’s not possible to abuse or overdose on Narcan.
Naloxone Saves Lives
Narcan has given Demi Lovato another chance at life. At just 25, she has struggled with addiction but sometimes, a scare like this is just the kind of wakeup call she needed. She is reportedly in treatment right now getting help. It has helped many people, preventing death from opioid overdose. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioids in the system. A fast acting drug has very little side effects. Perhaps the most dangerous part of it’s use is the immediate withdrawal of opioids in the system. This can cause people great discomfort.
When someone overdoses and nearly dies from opioid overdose, they are at the point of realization that drugs will kill them. In many ways, after a near death experience, they are more likely to want to get help. Narcan gives people a second chance at life. Family members may wish to execute an intervention shortly after a scare like this. We would love to hear from you if you’ve had an experience with naloxone.