Naloxone: What Is Naloxone and How Does It Work?

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What is Naloxone?


Americans are dying from drug overdoses at an alarming rate. The majority of these deaths are resulting from prescription painkillers and heroin. In 2014, the number of overdose deaths reached more than 47,000 deaths. Deaths from heroin tripled from 2010 to 2014, and deaths prescription opioid deaths quadrupled from 1999 to 2014. Unfortunately, this number continues to grow. When an opioid overdose occurs, breathing comes to a halt and can ultimately stop altogether. Naloxone, a term that has become a household name in recent years, is a narcotic overdose antidote. This live-saving antidote blocks opiate receptors in the brain and can restore breathing. Administering naloxone can cause immediate withdrawal effects such as nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and even seizures. If administered to someone not overdosing on opioids, the drug will not harm them.


Naloxone, also called Narcan, is a non addictive prescription medication that only works if a person has opiates in their body. It now comes in an easy-to-use nasal spray, and wears off after 20-90 minutes. The FDA patented Naloxone as an opioid antidote in 1971, but many lay people are just learning about it now. Many states now allow it to be sold without a prescription. Critics of this harm reduction technique argue that it provides a safety net for drug users, allowing them to take higher risks as they seek a more powerful high. But ultimately, the goal of distributing naloxone and educating the public about overdoses is to prevent death from overdose.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), community-based overdose prevention programs providing naloxone have expanded tremendously since 2010. By June 2014, there were at least 644 community-based opioid overdose prevention programs in the country that provide laypersons and service providers with naloxone. There are currently take-home programs in 30 states and the District of Columbia. This has led to tens of thousands of successful opioid overdoses and lives saved.


If you have any questions about naloxone or are struggling with an addiction to drugs and alcohol, reach out to Addiction Intervention Now today. We specialize in interventions and placing people into treatment. Call us now at (800) 208-8680.