What Is Naloxone?
Naloxone (also known as Narcan) is a prescription medication that reverses an opioid overdose. Common opioids include OxyContin, Percocet, Fentanyl, methadone, morphine, heroin, and other pain relievers.
When a person takes opioids, the opioids settle on receptors in the brain. In correct amounts, opioids block pain. But if too many opioids settle on brain receptors, the person stops breathing. Naloxone works by knocking opioids off the brain receptors and settling on the receptors instead. This allows the person to start breathing again.
Signs of an opioid overdose include unresponsiveness, shallow breathing or no breathing, blue lips, and sometimes a snoring sound. A person exhibiting these signs needs naloxone right away. Naloxone can be administered as an intranasal spray or as an injection into the vein or muscle.
Typically, a person will respond to naloxone within a couple of minutes. Because naloxone temporarily blocks the effects of opioids in the body, the person may experience opioid withdrawal symptoms such as dizziness, cravings, body aches, restlessness, diarrhea, or vomiting. These symptoms are normal and will lessen as the naloxone wears off in 30-90 minutes.
It is important to remember that naloxone only blocks the effects of opioids. It does not work on other drugs such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, methamphetamine, or cocaine. However, if you don’t know what drugs the person took, it is safe to give them naloxone. Naloxone is effective, non-abusable, and has been used for decades to reverse opioid overdose.