Naloxone: The Second Chance Drug


Naloxone (sometimes referred to by one of its brand names 'Narcan') is an 'opioid antagonist'. It is used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose by reversing life-threatening depression of both the central nervous and respiratory systems, allowing overdose victims to resume normal breathing.

Naloxone is not a controlled substance. It is not addictive and it often does not require a prescription.  Naloxone only works if someone has opioids in their system. It has no effect if opioids are not present. This makes it completely safe to use as a precaution on those suspected of experiencing opioid overdose without, for example, a medical professional present to confirm that opioids are in the patient's system.

Naloxone has no potential for abuse. It is completely legal and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You can't get high from it and it is safe for nearly everyone.  It has been used in programs and by medical professionals all over the world to effectively reverse opioid overdoses. But still many people don't know about naloxone and a rapidly growing number of people continue to die each year due to opioid overdoses.

There are three kinds of naloxone- one that can be sprayed into the nostrils, one that can be injected through clothing into a muscle, and an auto-injector (also injected, but best with skin to skin contact).

Naloxone can act as an important tool for empowering communities to protect their health. Being revived by naloxone means a patient is thrown into immediate withdrawal. Most overdose survivors describe being saved by naloxone as a harrowing experience. It is for this reason that, rather than enabling drug use, a naloxone revival is often a powerful motivator for the patient to reach out for help overcoming their addiction.

According The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, naloxone reversed more than 10,000 overdose cases between 1996 and 2010.

Credit: CNN 'Reversing an Overdose' 2013