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What is Naloxone and Who Should Carry It?

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist medication. It is used in emergency situations to rapidly reverse an overdose from opioids. Naloxone works by binding to opioid receptors and reversing their effects, while also blocking impact from other opioids entering the body. 

Naloxone can be given through a nasal spray, in a shot into the muscle (intramuscular), under the skin (subcutaneous), or through an IV. The most common form used in emergency situations is through the nasal spray because anyone can purchase and administer it. 

Naloxone can help save lives, but it only works for about 30 minutes. It is important to get emergency medical treatment right away, even if Naloxone is administered, and be prepared to potentially have to give a second dose.

Who Should Carry It?

If you or someone you know is at increased risk for opioid overdose, especially those with opioid use disorder (OUD), you should carry naloxone and keep it at home.

People who are taking high-dose opioid medications (greater or equal to 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day) prescribed by a doctor, people who use opioids and benzodiazepines together, and people who use drugs, should all carry naloxone. Because you cannot use naloxone on yourself, let others know you have it in case you experience an opioid overdose.

California’s Good Samaritan law protects those giving emergency medical care at the scene of a medical emergency, including giving naloxone. 

It is also important to know that Naloxone is not harmful if the person isn’t actually overdosing. 

image of naloxone

Where Can You Get Naloxone?

  • Anyone can get naloxone (Narcan) from a pharmacy or from a local organization that has a naloxone distribution program, such as a local opioid or overdose safety coalition or a syringe services program.

  • If you are a person who uses drugs and you do not have a resource in your community, you may be able to access mail-based naloxone through Next Distro.

  • ​The Naloxone Finder from the National Harm Reduction Coalition, provides information on how to locate naloxone in the community.

  • Educate others. Knowledge is power when it comes to substance use so take what you’ve learned and share it with your friends and family.