Nasal naloxone, more often known by the name brand Narcan, is a form of naloxone which is administered by a nasal spray that is used to temporarily reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist—meaning that it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications.
Since most accidental overdoses occur in a home setting, Naloxone was developed to be used by for first responders, as well as family, friends, and caregivers—with no medical training required. Naloxone was made to be easily administered in a variety of settings, but administering naloxone does not replace the need for someone experiencing an opioid overdose to be assessed and treated in the emergency room. As the opioid reversing effects of naloxone are temporary, it is important for an opioid overdose survivor to immediately be assessed by professionals in a medical setting to avoid lapsing back into overdose.
If you witness someone experiencing a life-threatening opioid overdose, immediately call 911 and then administer naloxone. Multiple doses of naloxone may need to be administered, but doing so all at once is not effective. Wait two to three minutes after each dose of naloxone is given to allow time for naloxone to reach effectiveness before administering another dose.
What happens is you administer naloxone to someone who you think is experiencing an opioid overdose but is not? Nothing – if a person is administered naloxone and they do not have an opioid in their system, naloxone will have nothing to counteract. No harm can be done by administering naloxone to someone who does not have an opioid in their system.
If you would like to become a naloxone responder, there are several pilot programs in Massachusetts that train people in the community – everyone can be trained. Call 800-327-5050 to find a location closest to you.
If you would like to obtain naloxone, you can go to many pharmacies without a prescription and pay only your health insurance prescription co-pay. Pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS are required to carry naloxone; however, some independently owned pharmacies may not carry naloxone. For more information on the standing order in Massachusetts for pharmacies to carry naloxone, click HERE. You can also reach out to your local Health Department and Police Department to ask if they provide naloxone and naloxone training free of cost; please be aware that not all communities do this. If you are close to someone who is at risk for an opioid overdose and need to have naloxone on hand, please contact one of the following to ask about how to to get free naloxone and naloxone training through an Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) site:
- Lowell Community Health Center at 978-221-6767
- Lowell House Addiction Treatment and Recovery at 978-459-8656
- Learn to Cope at 508-738-5148
- Additional OEND locations can be found here: ENGLISH, SPANISH, PORTUGUESE