What is Naloxone?
Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is a drug used to reverse an opioid overdose by interfering with how the opioid interacts with receptors in the brain.
Opioids include illegal substances such as heroin. Opioids are also legal substances like prescription drugs such as oxycontin, oxycodone (Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), fentanyl, and methadone that are prescribed to help relieve pain or as an anesthesia agent.
Additional information on naloxone can be found here.
How does it work?
When administered, Naloxone kicks the opioid off those receptors in the brain. When enough of the opioid is kicked off, the person becomes responsive and normal breathing is restored. This video provides a brief overview of how naloxone works:
How Effective is naloxone?
Once a person has overdosed, death is likely to happen within 1 to 3 hours. It is highly important that naloxone is administered as soon as bystanders are aware that someone has experienced an overdose. In a meta-analysis determining the effectiveness of naloxone administered by bystanders, it was found that 59.1% of the reports had positive reversals of an opioid overdose. There is a high association of naloxone administration and overdose recovery (Giglio, Li & DiMaggio, 2015). Bystanders may be hesitant to call 911 or seek help for fear of getting in trouble with law enforcement. Ohio and 39 other states and the District of Columbia have enacted Good Samaritan Laws which generally protect you from arrest when seeking emergency help for an overdose victim. Information about this immunity from arrest can be found here.
There is no magic number of naloxone doses that reverse an overdose. It depends on what kind of opioid the person has overdosed on and how potent or strong it was. Sometimes it may take multiple doses to reverse an overdose. When in doubt, it is okay to give a person more Naloxone doses. Multiple doses of naloxone will not harm the overdose victim but it may save their life.
Where to get naloxone?
The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy has put together a list for consumers in Ohio who would like to get naloxone. The information provided by the board is county specific and gives the information of places in each county that have naloxone available. Want to get naloxone?
Deaths Avoided with Naloxone is also known as Project DAWN. This initiative was set up as a community-based intervention to assist consumers in receiving education and giving free access to naloxone. Their website gives a more thorough description of the initiative along with a list of county agencies in Ohio that offer this service.
Giglio, R. E., Li, G., & DiMaggio, C. J. (January 01, 2015). Effectiveness of bystander naloxone administration and overdose education programs: a meta-analysis. Injury Epidemiology, 2, 1.)