What is naloxone?

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How to give a naloxone nasal spray: Overview

Naloxone (Narcan) is a medicine that reverses the effects of an opioid emergency. Taking too much of an opioid can slow or stop your breathing. If naloxone is given soon enough, it may save a life. It is available at many pharmacies without a prescription.

Where can you get a naloxone rescue kit?

Your doctor can give you a prescription for a naloxone rescue kit and show you how to use it. In some places you can get these kits without a prescription.

Being prepared to use a naloxone rescue kit

Naloxone is used when a person shows signs of an opioid overdose. A person may have overdosed if they have:

  • Slow, shallow, or stopped breathing.
  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Blue or purple lips or fingertips.
  • No response when you ask questions. If this happens, gently shake the person or rub their breastbone with your knuckles.

If someone appears to have overdosed, call 911. A drug overdose is an emergency.

Here are some ways you can be prepared to use a naloxone rescue kit.

  • Read and carefully follow the directions in the kit on how to give naloxone.

    If you think you or someone else may have overdosed but you're not sure, it's okay to use the kit anyway.

  • Make sure your friends and family know how and when to use naloxone.

    If you overdose, you may not be able to give yourself the medicine.

  • Make sure your family and friends know about these signs of an overdose.
  • Keep your rescue kit with you always.

    You never know when you might need it.

Always go to the emergency room after using naloxone.

Doctors will want to make sure the overdose has been reversed.

What's in a naloxone rescue kit?

Naloxone rescue kits come with instructions. The rescue kit may also contain:

  • A medicine nasal spray.
  • The medicine with syringes and needles.

Rescue kits include two doses because overdose symptoms may return a few minutes after the first dose from the rescue kit is given.

Why should you have a naloxone kit?

Naloxone kits save lives. Keep one with you at all times if you or someone you know:

  • Takes any opioids, whether prescribed to you or to someone else. This also includes heroin and methadone.
  • Takes opioids with alcohol or medicines that make you sleepy, like benzodiazepines ("benzos," Xanax, Valium, or Klonopin).
  • Uses cocaine, meth or other illegal drugs. They could be mixed with unknown amounts of opioids.
  • Has a history of substance use.
  • Has had an opioid emergency before.

If you accidentally take too much of an opioid, you may not be able to give yourself naloxone. Make sure that your family and friends know you have a kit. Tell them how and when to use it.

How do you use naloxone for an opioid emergency?

If you take too much of an opioid, you may not be able to give yourself the medicine. So it's very important that your friends and family know how and when to give it to you.

Rescue kits come with instructions. There are two ways to give the medicine:

  • Nasal spray.
    • This is the simplest method.
    • The mist is sprayed into the nose of a person who is having an opioid emergency. The person should be lying down when the mist is sprayed.
  • Injection with needle and syringe.
    • Follow the instructions very carefully.
    • The medicine can be injected through clothing.

Symptoms of an opioid emergency may return a few minutes after the first dose from the rescue kit. If that happens, a second dose is needed. Rescue kits may come with two doses for that reason.

Keep your rescue kit with you always. You never know when someone might need it.

If you think you or someone else may be having an opioid emergency but you're not sure, use the kit anyway. Aside from going through withdrawal, which may be uncomfortable, there is no danger in using this medicine.

Go to the emergency room or call 911 right away. More treatment may be needed.

How and When to Give Naloxone

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.