Opioids, pain medicines and confusion over over doses

I've been getting a lot of questions about Narcan (naloxone), Percocet, and opioids since the news was released that opioid-type medicine was found on Prince's body. It is crucial to realize that there is rampant speculation and nothing is proven or certain unless medical records are released and toxicology reports are known. We all react to medicines in our own individual way and medicines themselves interact with pills that have similar effects, ones that block removal and ones that potentiate effects (such as alcohol and pain killers).

What is certain is that ANYONE can suffer an accidental overdose and people feel such a loss in the death of Prince, rumors are rampant.

Opioids are used most often to treat pain. Examples include opiates, an older word used to describe medicines derived/extracted from or similar to morphine or other compounds that come from opium. Having said that, yes, morphine is an opioid and an opiate. Heroin is an opiate and is actually diacetylmorphine. Technically, opiates are natural alkaloids found in the opium poppy. Further examples of opioids include fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone (Percocet is oxycodone plus acetaminophen). For added clarity, there are also extended release forms of many opioids. MS-Contin is a brand of sustained or extended release morphine.

Confusion emerged when CNN mentioned Narcan being used to reverse excessive levels of opioids. Narcan (naloxone) is a medicine usually given intravenously to reverse excessive efffects of morphine or morphine-like medicines. This medicine is usually titrated (dosed in smaller doses and then increased) to effect if someone has suffered an over dose of an opioid and is unconscious or has extremely slow breathing. There is actually a self-injected (autoinjector) form of naloxone (Evzio). It is important to note that naloxone lasts a shorter time than morphine, so patients may be given this drug, recover from their overdose, then when the naloxone is removed by the body (usually in 30-90 minutes), the original morphine may lead to loss of consiousness again. In these cases, the naloxone is then given again.

Hopefully, this information will clear up some of the questions surrounding opioids, reversal agents for opioids and facts about medicines for pain. Clarity in the tragic death of Prince will come from official answers, not rumors. Every condolence to his family and friends. The world has lost another genius. It will be extremely sad if this death was the result of drug interactions or an accidental overdose of medicine that has helped so much pain.

Contact Us