A research study recently released by NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) found that improvised medical devices that deliver naloxone intranasally are significantly less effective when it comes to administering high enough doses of the opioid-antagonist drug. Narcan injections and FDA-approved nasal naloxone, the research shows, tend to apply the correct dosages correctly more often. Improvised nasal naloxone devices (INNDs), a recent competitor to enter the market, deliver the doses less effectively.

Naloxone has been used to reverse opioid overdoses for decades, but in the past few years, new forms of the opioid-antagonist have been put on the market in response to the addiction epidemic. Narcan, the brand name of the drug that is available in injection form, is often deployed by first responders when they suspect an overdose. In recent years, some departments and hospitals have switched to the nasal form of naloxone.

“Scientists found that the approved naloxone devices deliver higher blood levels of naloxone than the improvised nasal devices,” explains the report. “Levels in the plasma concentration of naloxone are considerably lower when improvised devices are used. The FDA-approved 4-mg dose nasal spray produced the highest blood level of naloxone of all the products tested.”

Efficiency and blood levels of the drug are necessary to consider when it comes to the trends in drug overdoes. Fentanyl, a drug that is about 100 times stronger than morphine, has caused a massive amount of overdoses in the past few years. When a person takes fentanyl, intentionally or through a tainted drug they bought online or on the street, the effects can be ominous. Sometimes it takes several full doses of naloxone to reverse a fentanyl overdose. Having multiple dosages that are optimized, so that none of the compound escapes into the air, is imperative to the success of first responders.

The INDDs were hoped to be an inexpensive alternative to Narcan in both nasal and shot form. Unfortunately, it looks like this isn’t the case, and instead, these devices are being marketed even with little evidence of their efficacy.