New Rules Let Doctors Give Narcan To Friends, Family

Mar 14, 2014

Rhode Island’s health department has issued new emergency regulations designed to make it easier to access a drug called naloxone, used to reverse drug overdoses. The new rules come in response to a spike in deaths from heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses.

A kit containing two doses of naloxone, via nasal spray.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The health department cited the "imminent peril" to public health that opioids, which include drugs like heroin and the prescription painkillers OxyContin and Percocet, represent. So it published new regulations that allow health professionals to prescribe an overdose antidote called naloxone, or Narcan, to almost anyone. That could include a patient at risk of overdosing, or that patient’s friend or family member, who might be in a position to save the patient’s life in case of an overdose. Normally, doctors can only write a prescription for a specific patient.

Prescribers can now also write a standing prescription for whole organizations, such as a police department. And, they can now keep Narcan on hand, in the office, to hand out to people at risk of overdosing or concerned for a loved one.

Opioids depress the central nervous system and an overdose can cause someone to stop breathing. Narcan works in seconds to block those opioids and reverse the overdose.