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Everything You Need To Know About Narcan (Naloxone)

What is Naloxone?

A drug called Naloxone, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is used to reverse opioid overdoses. Essentially, it is an opioid antagonist, which means that it binds to opioid receptors and reverses or blocks the effects of opioids like heroin, morphine, or oxycodone. Naloxone is a temporary treatment for opioid overdoses, administered when a patient shows signs of overdose. In order to ensure a successful outcome, it is crucial to seek medical intervention immediately after administering/receiving Naloxone.

You can administer the medication via intranasal spray (into the nose), intramuscular injection (into the muscle), subcutaneous injection (under the skin), or intravenous injection.

If a patient is taking methadone or buprenorphine or is otherwise considered at risk for opioid overdose, a practitioner should consider prescribing Naloxone.

Those who may benefit from Naloxone include:

  • In order to manage chronic pain on a long-term basis, you need to take high doses of opioids

  • Opioid medications are administered rotationally

  • Have been treated for opioid poisoning or intoxication in an emergency room

  • Taking a long-acting opioid or extended-release medication

  • Abstinence-seeking people, like those recently released from prison.

  • If a doctor supervises the use of Naloxone, pregnant women can take small doses of it without harming themselves.

Doctors, pharmacists, and caregivers can generally administer Naloxone. Those who get automatic injection devices or nasal sprays should always keep them handy. Whenever the expiration date passes and if temperatures are below 39°F or above 104°F, replace your medication.

Naloxone works if another sedative or stimulant is used with opioids. It's not effective against overdoses of benzodiazepines or stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines.

How Does Naloxone (Narcan) Work?

In the event of an opioid overdose, Naloxone reverses the effects rapidly. In addition to blocking the effects of opiates on the brain, Naloxone assists in restoring breathing after an overdose.

Naloxone will only work if the person is taking opiates. With other drugs, it won't work. In addition to being safe to use, Narcan cannot get you "high."

When Does Naloxone Start Working?

It takes two to three minutes for Naloxone to take effect. A second dose should be given if the person does not wake up within three minutes.

In order to make sure the person gets oxygen to his or her brain, rescue breathing should be done while waiting for Naloxone to take effect.

How is Naloxone Administered?

Three methods are available for administering naloxone.

  • The drug is injected intramuscularly by inserting the needle through clothing.

  • It is also possible to administer the drug intranasally, by spraying it into the nose.

  • Intravenously is the third method.

Is it Safe to Give Naloxone to Someone Who Has Overdosed?

Short answer, yes.

Families with loved ones struggling with opioid addiction should have naloxone nearby. A family member should carry it, and a friend should know where to find it. In the event of an overdose, it is still important, however, to call 911 immediately if your loved one has overdosed.

The use of Naloxone is increasing among police officers, emergency medical technicians, and non-emergency first responders. The majority of states offer training on how to give naloxone to people who are at risk of opioid overdoses or know someone who is.

If families are unsure how to use the devices, they can ask their pharmacist or healthcare provider for instructions.

After Administering Narcan, What Effects Should I Expect?

Some people may experience side effects after taking Narcan, including:

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Swelling or congestion of the nasal passages

  • A rapid heartbeat

  • An increase in blood pressure

An individual who is physically dependent on opioids may experience withdrawal symptoms after taking Narcan. As a result, you should always seek medical attention after Narcan is administered.

Do You Need a Prescription for Narcan?

As of 2022, all 50 U.S. states, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico will allow you to purchase Narcan without a prescription. However, each state may have its own rules regarding the purchase of Narcan without a prescription.

In these states, for instance, Narcan can be purchased at a pharmacy counter.

Moreover, community organizations can distribute Narcan without requiring a prescription.

Other states require pharmacists to have a "standing order" from a healthcare provider before dispensing Narcan. As a result, it isn't mandated by the state. However, healthcare providers and pharmacists can make their own agreements to sell Narcan without a prescription.

Where Can I Buy Narcan Without a Prescription?

Narcan is available at your local pharmacy without a prescription. A prescription is not required for Narcan, which can be purchased at pharmacies nationwide. Ask your pharmacy if they can order Narcan for you if they don't have it on hand.

Can You Purchase Narcan Over-the-Counter (OTC)?

It is not necessary to have a prescription to buy Narcan, but many pharmacies have it behind the counter (BTC). In order to purchase it, you will need to speak with a pharmacy employee. Contrary to OTC medications, which are kept in a general area of the store and are easily accessible to anyone.

How Much Does Narcan Cost?

In many states, health insurance plans must cover Narcan at least in part. This means that they are often responsible for some of the costs. Most Medicare plans fall under this category. Narcan is also covered by many Medicaid plans.

The insurance industry may also be prohibited from requiring prior authorizations for Narcan in some states. Certain medicines are not covered by your insurance company unless you receive prior authorization.

Can You Get Narcan for Free?

In the event that your insurance does not cover Narcan or if you do not have insurance, Narcan may be available for free.

Narcan may be available free of charge in your city or state depending on where you live. Several community-based programs offer Narcan for free as well. Delaware's Division of Public Health, for example, provides free Narcan to residents who cannot otherwise afford it, provided the residents watch a training video and pass a short test.

Does Narcan Expire?

If stored properly, Narcan lasts for 36 months (3 years). Nevertheless, make sure to check the expiration date on your package of Narcan. Depending on when it was manufactured, the date may be shorter than 3 years. It is recommended that Narcan be stored properly so that it lasts until its expiration date.

Can I Use Expired Narcan?


According to studies, expired Narcan can often be just as effective as fresh Narcan. To be safe, you should obtain a new supply of Narcan if yours has expired. However, if you only have expired Naloxone and someone needs Narcan, you should use it.

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