Demi Lovato's friends saved her life with Narcan: Should more people carry this?

More details are emerging about the moments after Demi Lovato overdosed on an as-yet-undisclosed drug. According to one report, Lovato’s friends saved her life by administering Narcan, a drug that can treat a narcotic overdose in an emergency situation.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

“One of her friends had Narcan on hand in case something like this happened,” a source told Us Weekly. “Her friends knew this was coming because she’s been using so much again. They were up all night partying the night before at her house. Luckily, the Narcan worked and she will recover.”

When someone uses a narcotic, the drug activates opioid receptors in the brain, Jamie Alan, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. If someone takes a high dose of one of these drugs, it can slow heart rate and breathing, which keeps the brain from getting the oxygen it needs. Narcan (a brand name for naloxone) works by binding to the person’s opioid receptors, reversing and blocking the effects of other opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Lovato “had two friends with her at her house that called 911,” the Us Weekly source said. “They were hysterical when paramedics arrived and Demi was unconscious. But the friends acted very quickly and saved her life.”

It makes sense that you might want to have Narcan on hand if you have a loved one who has a current or past history of addiction, but it’s a little more complicated than that, Alan says. Clearly, it can be life-saving in an emergency, and it is also considered “fairly safe” if you injected a person after they overdosed on something that wasn’t an opioid, like alcohol, Alan says. “If you misjudge the circumstances, you’re not going to cause adverse effects,” Alan says.

But if your loved one is aware that you have Narcan, that person may also feel more comfortable abusing opioids or pushing the dosage when using opioids, knowing that there is a safety net in case of overdose, Alan points out.

Getting Narcan is actually easier than you may think. It’s available in many pharmacies, in some cases without a prescription, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says. Walgreens, for example, sells naloxone in many states without a prescription, while CVS does the same in Ohio, Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin. Ultimately, your ability to get naxolone easily depends on your state law, and some states require brief training in the use of naloxone before you can obtain it, Alan says.

Lovato’s condition has been described as “stable,” and her spokesperson confirmed via statement that she’s awake and with her loved ones.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 24-hour treatment referral hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357) or visit for free, confidential help. In the case of a medical emergency, call 911.

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