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What Is Naloxone

A piece of paper with the definition of Naloxone written on it.

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone (commonly known as NARCAN®) is a medication that can reverse an overdose caused by an opioid drug (heroin, illicit fentanyl, or prescription pain medications). When administered during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and quickly restores breathing. Naloxone has been used safely by emergency medical professionals for more than 40 years and has only one critical function: to prevent overdose death by reversing the effects of opioids. Naloxone is a safe, non-controlled drug and has no potential for abuse.

If naloxone is given to a person who is not experiencing an opioid overdose, it is harmless. If naloxone is administered to a person who is dependent on opioids, it will produce withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal, although uncomfortable, is not life-threatening.

Naloxone can be administered by trained laypersons, which can be helpful if a friend, family member, or other bystander witnesses a person overdosing.

Naloxone can be administered in three ways:

  • Intranasal spray (i.e., NARCAN®).
  • Intramuscular/subcutaneous (i.e., Evzio®).
  • Intravenous injection.

Project DAWN Naloxone Kit

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states the effects of naloxone last for 30-90 minutes and may require additional doses to prevent a person from going back into overdose.

For more information on overdose response, please visit the Resources