Naloxone, most known by its brand name “Narcan,” is FDA-approved as a medication to reverse the toxic effects of an opioid overdose. In South Carolina, naloxone is available from pharmacies and community distributors throughout the state without a prescription.

Since January 2018, the state’s county alcohol and drug abuse authorities, opioid treatment programs, recovery organizations – and other organizations that provide services to people who may have a substance use disorder – have distributed thousands of doses of naloxone to patients, caregivers, and community members through the Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution program.

Since completing hundreds of Overdose Prevention and Narcan Administration training events throughout the Lowcountry in 2018, WakeUp Carolina has found several common misconceptions from the greater South Carolina community. It’s a frightening topic – overdose. It’s not something that most people are going to be comfortable discussing. The fact is overdoses are on the rise nationally and locally. Per the Opioid Emergency Response Team (OERT) in November of 2022, EMS responded to 832 overdoses in Charleston County alone. With overdoses (fatal and non-fatal) being at such high rates, the chances of coming across someone who’s experiencing an overdose could hit closer to home than one would think.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Isn’t that what they used in the Pulp Fiction movie?”

Yes, they used injectable Naloxone on Uma Thurman’s character. WakeUp Carolina distributes nasal Narcan and doesn’t require any injections. This medication is absorbed through the mucus membrane in the nose.

“Does distributing Narcan condone continued drug use?”

We can see that if someone has an overdose reversed from nasal Narcan and goes back to using opioids, it could look like we’re enabling their drug use. WakeUp Carolina believes where there is breath, there is hope. Some people believe it’s for the “drug addicts” living under a bridge, others see it as a college-age issue, but in our experience overdoses do not discriminate. We’ve seen “five-star” athletes who were experimenting at a party, an elderly grandmother who got her medications mixed up for her vitamins, and the populations who seek out lethal narcotics for their own personal use – knowing that any dose could be their last.

“How does Narcan work?”

Opioids attach to brain receptors that minimize pain but that also affects breathing. Naloxone/Narcan reverses the effects of opioids by binding more strongly to the same receptors and temporarily “taking over” and knocking the drug off these sites so that breathing can be restored. It only works on opioids. It does not work for overdoses caused by non-opioid substances such as cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy, GHB, or alcohol. This medication does not have the potential for abuse and does not increase risk-taking behavior – cannot be used to get high and it is not addictive. It has a long safety history, reported side effects are rare, and can be easily administered by properly trained community members/caregivers.

“So, after they wake up from an overdose, they’re fine?”

No, Naloxone only continues to work for 30-90 minutes, and overdose symptoms can return. It’s vital the person of concern gets to the emergency department as soon as possible after they’ve been revived. All individuals should be monitored for recurrence of signs and symptoms of opioid toxicity for at least 4 hours from the last dose of Narcan. Some medical providers may suggest longer monitoring depending on the opioids an individual has taken.

“Where can I get Naloxone (Narcan)?”

Naloxone is FDA-approved as a medication to reverse the toxic effects of an opioid overdose. In South Carolina, naloxone is available from pharmacies and community distributors (listed on our social media pages) throughout the state without a prescription. When getting this medication through pharmacies the cost depends on your insurance co-pay.

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