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 and can also be legal substances like the prescription drugs: 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 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 occur within one to three 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, 59.1% of the reports had positive reversals of an opioid overdose. There is a strong connection between 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, 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 individual who has overdosed. 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 dose. Multiple doses of naloxone will not harm the individual who has overdosed 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 to get naloxone. The information is county specific and provides information for where naloxone can be purchased in each county. 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 provide naloxone education and free access to it. Their website provides a 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.)