The Importance of Narcan

Narcan is saving lives every day and giving people a second change at life and recovery

Narcan Can Save Lives

Why and how Narcan is used

I tell people ‘You were blue and when I say blue I mean blue,’” Kelsey Crosdale said. “‘You were dying, if not real close to dead.’” Kelsey Crosdale, an EMT, only has that conversation with those who manage to “come back” and survive their opioid overdose.

Opioids are a specific type of drug that acts on the nervous system to ultimately relieve pain. They are  often abused and sometimes deadly. In many cases it only takes one, yes, one pill, to get high and addicted to opioid-based drugs and overdosing is not uncommon.

When medical providers arrive to the scene of an overdose, they have to think fast.

“The person is usually not breathing or breathing very very slowly,” Crosdale said.  “If they have a pulse, that is when I will secure IV access, give the medication, and usually they come back and breath on their own.”

That medication Crosdale is referring to is Narcan and it is reversing lethal opioid overdoses across the country.

Narcan Nasal Spray was formulated and is distributed by Adapt Pharma in Radnor, PA. Photo by: Emily Rowan

According to the Journal of Drug abuse, “Naloxone hydrochloride is a generic, non-narcotic opioid antagonist that blocks the brain cell receptors activated by opioids. It is a fast-acting drug that, when administered during an overdose blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing within two to three minutes of administration.”

“The goal is to reverse the effects of the drug as soon as possible,” Crosdale said.

With three main ways to distribute Narcan, Crosdale says through an IV is the quickest and most effective.

“It’s an intravenous access and given through a pre filled syringe,” Crosdale said.  “There’s also auto injectors and an intranasal which turns into a mist and put up each nostril.”

Personal Stories

In April 2016, the Cabrini community lost a student to a suspected drug overdose. The suspected overdose happened off of the college’s campus at a house in West Conshohocken. According to a report by NBC Philadelphia, an “officer administered [the] anti-overdose drug naloxone and performed CPR but the man didn’t respond and medics pronounced him dead on the scene.”

Unfortunately for this Cabrini student, the life-saving drug naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, was unable to revive him. The Cabrini community lost a strong student-athlete, a friend to many and a young man who had a lot of potential.

It is a phenomenal drug, it is a phenomenal counter agent to reverse the opioid [overdose],” Radnor police lieutenant Andrew Block, commander of the special operations division which includes the drug task force, said.

Kelly Day is grateful for the lifesaving drug which wound up saving her daughter’s life. About four years ago Day’s daughter, Sam, overdosed on heroin and was unresponsive.

“I got a phone call one night from Sam’s friend around 10:30 at night,” Day said. “I remember it like it was yesterday.”

‘Sam’s not breathing, I can’t wake her up,’ the friend frantically said over the phone.

“Did you call an ambulance?” Day asked.

Sam’s friend said no.

Day arrived to the scene to see her daughter lying with her eyes rolled back.

“When I got there I called back 911 and I was able to keep her alive and give her CPR until the ambulance got there, which is something no parent should ever, ever have to do — give their child CPR,” she said.

“We got her to the hospital and they shot her with the Narcan… which is a drug that puts you into instant detox,” Day said.

Officer James McCans, the Director of Emergency Medical Services for Haverford Township, says Narcan is being used almost every other day on the scene of overdoses in Delaware County.  


Narcan has saved thousands of people who have overdosed on opioid based drugs. This “miracle drug” has given so many people a second chance at life and a chance to get into treatment to change their life path after addiction. Created by: Emily Rowan

“We’re over 300 reversals in 2 years, which is about one every other day by police,” McCans said.

With numbers like these, McCans says Narcan has become the number one drug medical providers give in Delaware County.

“There’s nothing we deal with- not heart attacks, strokes or car accidents that is to that volume of patients,” said McCans.  “The crush on the system is remarkable.”

The Debate 

Despite its success, the use of Narcan is still often debated.

“50% say let’s do it, 50% say ‘Oh, okay, you wanna save the junkie?’,” McCans said.  “That’s a coarse way of looking at it, but you can kind of understand it.”

“The police have been seeing the same addicts for years,” McCans said. “They’re worn and asking themselves ‘What’s the point of saving them if they’re on a course of dying anyway?’”

Narcan is costly and many times after reviving someone they leaving the hospital and find their their next “fix” but without giving them a second chance at life there is no hope.

Who has access?

There are various initiatives being put into place to get Narcan more widely spread to give people that second chance at life and a chance at getting into rehab.

On April 10, 2017, The Clinton Foundation and Adapt Pharma announced that they will be working together to provide 40,000 free doses of NARCAN nasal spray to colleges and universities throughout the country. NARCAN nasal spray is the only FDA-approved nasal spray and it is designed to be simple enough for people without medical training to administer a potentially lifesaving dose.

This initiative is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) and Adapt Pharma. Any Title IV-eligible, degree-granting colleges and universities in the US can now apply to receive up to four free cartons (eight 4mg doses) of NARCAN® Nasal Spray to have on campus. Colleges and Universities can apply for their free Narcan at

The initiative aims to make college and university campuses safer and put an end to death from opioid overdose. Having Narcan nasal spray on campuses and available at all times is the first step in making that happen.

Day chooses to carry Narcan nasal spray in her purse at all times because of her daughter’s history. “When Sam came home [from rehab] she gave me a dose [of Narcan] to put in my purse,” she said. “I carry it with me at all times.”

“You can give Narcan to anybody. It is a benign substance. You don’t have to worry about somebody having an allergic reaction to it. If you are unsure of why the person is unresponsive you can give it to them without any fear,” David Fialko, a drug prevention specialist with the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, said.

Narcan is now easily accessible to anyone who wants to have it on-hand.

“Today you could walk into a CVS, Rite Aid or ACME and walk up to the pharmacy and ask for Narcan nasal spray,” Thomas Duddy, the executive director of communications and public relations for Adapt Pharma, said.

“In Pennsylvania you can do it without a prescription, because there is a standing order here and in most states, well 35 states, have that ability now too,” Duddy said. “So you can walk in and access Narcan with your insurance card or pay cash.”

Written by: Emily Rowan and Allie Stein

Narcan Nasal Spray is available for anyone to purchase and have on hand in case of an opioid overdose emergency. Photo by: Emily Rowan