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Following FDA approval, Lincoln experts say over-the-counter Narcan will save lives

LINCOLN, Neb (Nebraska) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the drug Narcan for over-the-counter use, which advocates say will save lives from the opioid epidemic.

In 2022, investigators seized an estimated 4.8 million lethal doses of fentanyl in the Midwest, according to the Omaha Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Ben Houchin said fentanyl is an incredibly dangerous drug often hidden in painkillers and other drugs.

As little as 2 milligrams, the size of a pencil tip, could be lethal.

“If you touch it, it can enter your system,” he said. “And it’s 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. We started having our deputies carry Narcan about four years ago, and it wasn’t just for the public, but for our safety as well.

Narcan can counteract the effects of an opioid overdose for some time, which is why first responders and emergency services often have doses with them.

Houchin said sheriff’s office dogs also run the risk of accidentally sniffing a lethal dose, so deputies bring Narcan doses for them as well.

He says sometimes waiting for first responders to arrive and administer a dose can be too long, so it’s best for the public to have access to as much Narcan as possible.

But until Wednesday, the general public could only get Narcan through a prescription. It will now be sold over the counter in pharmacies, drugstores, grocery stores, gas stations, and even online.

The senior director of community response at Centerpointe, an addiction treatment center in Lincoln, said he hopes this will lower some barriers to getting a life-saving dose.

“I think it’s really important for people to always have access to it, have it with them,” said Amber Dirks. “We have our own staff equipped to have it. So I think Narcan being accessible to people is definitely going to be a huge thing.

Bryce Walker, a pharmacist at Kohll’s Rx, said that when a person is overdosing on opioids, it’s important to get them Narcan right away.

He said someone who overdoses will likely be unconscious, have shallow breathing, pinpoint pupils, and blue lips or hands.

To deliver a dose, he says you just take the spray out of the box, insert it into the person’s nostril, and press the button on the bottom.

After a few minutes, the person can regain consciousness and must be taken to the hospital.

Walker said it’s important to do this because the Narcan will wear off after about 45 minutes and the person can go back into an overdose state.

While doses of Narcan will likely be expensive, Walker said, generic versions could eventually be sold, which will bring the price down.

She said it’s good to be proactive and have a dose ready just in case, so be careful in stores if you want to take some.

Tags: Amber Dirks, CenterPointe, Deputy Chief Ben Houchin, drug overdose, FDA, fentanyl, fentanyl crisis, fentanyl overdose, fentanyl pills, Kohll’s Pharmacy, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, Narcan, Narcan doses, Nebraska Overdose Deaths, od, opioid crisis, opioid overdose, over-the-counter drugs, over-the-counter Narcan, overdose, pharmacy, prescription drugs, seized drugs, US Food and Drug Administration

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