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Live-saving overdose medication available at Alabama pharmacies without prescription


With the growing opioid crisis in Alabama and across the country, health and harm reduction experts say it’s important to have a medication on hand and ready to use in the case of an overdose. Naloxone nasal spray, often referred to by its name brand Narcan, is an over-the-counter (OTC) drug that can reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Naloxone nasal spray was approved for OTC use by the Food and Drug Administration in March of 203 and is now being distributed to stores across the country, including Alabama.

Pharmacies in Alabama now offering Narcan include Walgreens, CVS, Winn-Dixie, Costco and Publix. Each box contains a 4mg, two-spray Naloxone dose. The price of Narcan in Alabama typically starts at around $45.

It takes Narcan two to three minutes to take effect once it’s been administered, according to the CDC. The medication works by attaching itself to opioid receptors in the brain and pushing the opioids away from them, rapidly reversing the effects of an overdose.

Dr. Wes Stubblefield, the district medical officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said he hopes there are fewer deaths caused by opioid overdoses now that Naloxone is available in Alabama without a prescription.

“The hope is that if this drug is available for people to use, and more people have access to it for whatever reason, then people can use it to reverse these potentially deadly effects of opioid use and overuse,” said Dr.Stubblefield.

Naloxone can also be useful to have on hand if people believe that they are more likely to come in contact with someone who is struggling with opioid addiction. However, those who do so should pay attention to the medication’s storage requirements so that it remains effective. Dr. Stubblefield said he recommends people who know of someone struggling with opioid addiction to purchase a Naloxone kit.

“Anyone who may come into contact with someone who may be an unknown contact, or maybe they have family members who have addiction problems, those people should obviously very much have one,” he said.

The Jefferson County Department of Health is offering free training for those interested in learning more about naloxone and how to use it. People who complete the training will receive a free naloxone kit.

Although the drug is effective, Dr. Stubblefield warned that users should call 911 for immediate medical care.

“It's important when someone uses this medication, that they understand that calling 911 immediately is most important so that first responders can get there and deliver potentially lifesaving medication. This [Naloxone] can be the first step in reversing someone's effects, not only to save their life, but to get them into treatment,” said Stubblefield.

Naloxone can be purchased at local pharmacies without a prescription. For more information on the drug and the growing opioid crisis, visit the FDA website.

Hannah Holcombe is a student intern at the Alabama Public Radio newsroom. She is a Sophomore at the University of Alabama and is studying news media. She has a love for plants, dogs and writing. She hopes to pursue a career as a reporter.
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