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What is Naloxone?

Naloxone (pronounced na-LOX-own) is a fast-acting drug that interrupts and temporarily reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

What does it do?

Opioid drugs (like oxycodone, fentanyl, heroin and morphine) affect the part of the brain that controls breathing. This effect can become deadly when opioids are combined with alcohol or other drugs. Naloxone immediately reverses the effects of opioids, and can restore an unresponsive person's breathing and consciousness within 2 to 5 minutes.

Naloxone can prevent death or brain damage from lack of oxygen during an opioid overdose. It does not work for non-opioid overdoses, such as cocaine, ecstasy, GHB or alcohol. 

qCAT - black circle with a red cross in the middle, and the word naloxone in white letters

How does it work?

When taken, opioid drugs attach to certain receptors in the brain.  Immediately upon administration, naloxone finds the opioids quickly, kicks them off and and binds itself to those same receptors to prevent the opioids from re-attachment. This is how the effects of opioid overdose are reversed and blocked, and why naloxone saves lives. 

Can it be harmful or misused?

No.  Naloxone is non-addictive and it is impossible to "give someone too much."  It isn't harmful if it is given to someone who hasn't taken any opioids - nothing will happen. Naloxone only reverses overdoses in people with opioids in their systems.  911 should be called anytime an overdose is suspected, whether naloxone is given or not. 

How is it administered?

To revive an unresponsive person who has overdosed or is overdosing, naloxone can be administered by injection or by nasal spray delivered through the nose (internasal).

Injectable naloxone is given as a shot into a muscle. It can be injected  through clothing into the muscle of the upper arm, upper leg, or buttock.  Naloxone kits include safety needles to prevent needle-stick injuries and to facilitate safe needle disposal.  When sprayed, naloxone is administered as a mist sprayed directly into both nostrils.

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