Naloxone: What It Is and How it Saves Lives

Naloxone/Narcan Kit

When it comes to treating a potential opioid overdose, every second that passes increases the risk of long-term side effects and, in severe cases, death.  

That’s why it’s critical for medical professionals and civilians alike to have access to life-saving medications that can stop an opioid overdose before it reaches the point of no return, regardless of how far away the nearest hospital is.  

One of the most potent overdose prevention medications, known as Naloxone, has grown in popularity in recent years, due to how easy to use and effective it is at reversing the effects of an opioid overdose in real-time.  

But before you consider using Naloxone in an emergency situation, it’s important to understand exactly what it is, how it works, and how you can safely administer it to save a life.  

What Is Naloxone? 

Sometimes known under the brand names Narcan and Evzio, Naloxone is an opioid-blocking medication that works to stop an overdose as it happens, preventing the patient from developing long-term side effects as a result.  

In other words, Naloxone use acts as an “opioid antagonist,” making it a highly beneficial medication for individuals who have been prescribed opioids or are struggling with ongoing opioid addiction. 

Typically, Naloxone or Narcan use is administered by… 

  • First responders 
  • Hospital personnel 
  • Nurse practitioners 
  • Pharmacists

However, you don’t need to have a medical background to safely administer Naloxone to someone in crisis.  

This medication is unique in that it is easy to obtain and even easier to use, regardless of your first aid knowledge.  

How Does It Work? 

Today, there are two primary delivery methods for Naloxone that can be used in emergency overdose scenarios. These products are FDA-approved to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in just minutes, especially when given in the early stages of overdose.  

Naloxone Injectable 

The most common form of Naloxone comes in an injectable form, like the popular Narcan shot, which is delivered in a pre-measured vial. These vials are designed to be injected directly into the patient’s muscle tissue, making them easier to administer than shots that require you to inject directly into the veins.  

Because the Naloxone injectable is simply to give, even without medical training, this form of delivery has become a go-to for individuals who need proactive resources for preventing an overdose.  

Narcan Nasal Spray

Naloxone “Narcan” Nasal Spray 

Another intake method for Naloxone is via a pre-packaged nasal spray. These sprays, which look similar to saline nasal decongestants, come with a pre-filled amount of medication that can be safely sprayed directly into the patient’s nasal passage, even if they are laying down.  

Because this method doesn’t involve any injections, it’s become a popular option for those with an aversion to needles or who may be hesitant to administer an injectable substance on their own. 

How Does Naloxone Save Lives? 

Once you’ve determined which administration method meets your needs, you can keep Naloxone on hand in the event of a potential opioid overdose, especially if you or someone close to is experiencing complications from opioid use. 

Naloxone works quickly within the body to not only prevent a severe overdose but to reverse any symptoms that have already presented themselves in the affected individual.  

This can help you save yourself or someone you love from enduring the costly long-term side effects of an overdose, which wreak havoc on both the body and mind.  

Here’s How It Works In 3 Simple Stages… 

Rapid Absorption 

Whether you administer a Naloxone injectable or a Narcan spray, the body is able to absorb and transport the medication to the necessary receptors within just seconds of being given. 

This means that you should be able to see the effects of the Naloxone in no less than 4 minutes of being administered, giving you rapid relief from even the most troubling overdose symptoms, without wasting precious time trying to get to a hospital. 

Opioid Blockage 

As soon as the Naloxone has entered the bloodstream, it begins attaching to opioid receptors in the body and blocking more opiates from affecting the brain, which is the root cause of most overdose symptoms.  

From there, Naloxone starts to counteract any lingering opioids remaining in the body’s system by restoring homeostasis to the brain, allowing the patient to slowly regain consciousness. 

Repeat Usage 

Of course, extreme opioid abuse cases can leave potent amounts of this deadly substance in the body, even after Naloxone use has occurred.  When this happens, the person may begin to overdose again once the medication has begun to wear off, typically between 30 to 90 minutes after being administered. 

Thankfully, Naloxone is safe and approved to be administered in succession, once the initial dosage has subsided. In these scenarios, it’s best to administer another round of Naloxone until emergency responders or other medical personnel can be present.  

How Will I Know If Naloxone Use Is Needed? 

Because Naloxone is a medication intended for emergency use, it’s important to understand the signs that someone may be overdosing on opioids, so that you can take quick action that can potentially save their life.  

And while Naloxone is most commonly used to treat opioid addicts, it can also be a good idea to keep this medication on hand if you or someone close to you has recently been prescribed opioids by their Doctor. 

Symptoms of an opioid overdose include… 

  • Becoming unconscious or unresponsive 
  • Appearing to be awake, but unable to speak or move 
  • Shallow breathing or no breathing at all 
  • Slow pulse that feels inconsistent 
  • Pale or blue skin 
  • Choking or gurgling on saliva 
  • Nausea and vomiting 

If any of these symptoms are present, and you know that the individual has been using opioids, you should administer Naloxone immediately.  

Where Can I Buy Naloxone? 

Thankfully, buying Narcan or other brands of Naloxone is relatively easy, and often inexpensive. 

In most states, you can purchase Naloxone directly from your local pharmacy without a prescription from your Doctor, giving you the freedom to keep this life-saving drug on hand anytime you feel it may be needed. 

Depending on where you choose to get your medications, Narcan costs can range between $50 – $100 per dosage, but may be less than that if you have a discount program with your pharmacy. 

Naloxone: Commonly Asked Questions 

“Will Naloxone make me high?” 

No, this medication acts as an antidote to the effects of opioids in the body, which prevents your receptors from absorbing the drug. This not only reverses an overdose, but also prevents you from continuing to feel high after usage. 

“Can it be used to treat other drug overdoses?” 

Naloxone has been designed to treat opioid-specific overdoses, so it will not be effective at treating an overdose from other substances like amphetamines, meth, or cocaine.  

Most importantly, Naloxone is only effective when opiates are present in the patient’s system. It will not prevent an overdose if used prior to ingesting opioids. 

“Are there non-emergency uses for Naloxone?” 

While these medications are primarily used in emergency overdose situations, there are some alternative uses for Naloxone that can be used to help addicts reduce their need for opioids. 

For example, Buprenorphine Naloxone is a combination sublingual drug that mimics the euphoric effects of opiates in the body, while preventing potential overdoses. This prescription is often used to help those in recovery from an opioid addiction maintain their sobriety. 

“What are the side effects of using Naloxone?” 

Naloxone side effects are extremely rare, but not impossible. The likely side effects of this medication include… 

  • Body aches 
  • Fever 
  • Sneezing or runny nose 
  • Tremors 
  • Irritability or anxiety 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Accelerated heart rate 
  • High blood pressure 

If you or someone you know experiences these side effects from Naloxone, you should cease usage immediately and contact your Doctor.  

“What should I do if it doesn’t work?” 

When you administer Naloxone, you should see results within less than 4 minutes.  

However, if you notice that the person you’ve administered it to hasn’t improved after several minutes have passed, it may be necessary to give a second dose, depending on the severity of their overdose.  

Final Thoughts 

Now, more than ever, the opioid epidemic poses a significant threat to the health and well-being of countless individuals across the United States. 

But with the help of innovative medications like Naloxone, we can begin to fight back against opioid-related overdoses and give those who struggle with addiction the path to recovery that they deserve. 

Learn more about how the team at S&G Labs is striving to create an overdose-free world today. 

Where Can I get Naloxone in Hawaii?

S&G Labs Hawaii partners with some of Hawaii’s leading outreach programs that help the community with resources such as clean needles, safe spaces, and information regarding Naloxone. If you or a family member is in need, please consider reaching out to the following organizations:

Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center:

Email:[email protected]
Tel:  (808) 521-2437