Opioids: Naloxone FAQ

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. It can be given as an injection or as a nasal spray.

Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions about naloxone.

What is naloxone?

Naloxone is a safe and effective medication that can reverse an overdose caused by an opioid. It is sold as a generic drug and is also known by the brand names “Narcan” and "Evzio," among other brands.

Who is naloxone for?

Naloxone is for anyone at risk of overdose, either from medical or nonmedical opioid use. In general, people at risk of an overdose and anyone in a position to help a person at risk of an overdose should carry naloxone.

How does naloxone work?

Opioids can impair a person’s ability to breathe, and naloxone restores breathing. Naloxone blocks the effect of opioids in the brain for 30-90 minutes. People who are given naloxone should not be left alone. It is important to call 911 so that medical personnel can monitor the person’s breathing and ensure it does not slow down or stop, which can still happen hours after the last dose of naloxone is given.

Why should I keep naloxone on hand?

Opioid overdoses can happen to anyone at risk. You hope that you never need naloxone, but you should have it on hand just in case you do.

Will naloxone reverse overdoses caused by other drugs?

No. Naloxone only reverses the effects of opioids, such as heroin, fentanyl, codeine, morphine, or hydrocodone.

Is naloxone harmful if given to someone who is not overdosing on opioids?

Serious side effects of naloxone are very rare and the drug will have no effect if someone is not overdosing on opioids. If a person is overdosing on opioids, the most common side effect is opioid withdrawal; however, without naloxone, the opioid overdose can result in death or complications, such as lung and heart problems.

Does naloxone encourage drug misuse or cause a high?

Research has shown that naloxone does not encourage opioid misuse. It does not produce a high, is not addictive, and cannot cause misuse or dependency. In fact, naloxone reverses the pleasurable effects opioids have on the brain. People who are saved by naloxone have the opportunity to access treatment and recovery services.

Can naloxone be safely used if it is expired?

Naloxone loses its strength over time. Exposure to too much heat or cold or exposure to sunlight can speed up this process. Expired naloxone will not hurt the person experiencing an overdose, but may not work as well after the expiration date.

Is naloxone legal to carry?

Yes, naloxone is legal to carry.

Where can I get naloxone?

There are three ways to get naloxone:

  • Talk to your doctor and ask for a prescription.
  • Ask a pharmacist how to get naloxone.
  • Find a nearby pharmacy that dispenses naloxone. Wisconsin has more than 300 pharmacies that allow anyone to purchase naloxone without a prescription.

How much does naloxone cost?

The cost of naloxone varies. Ask your pharmacist about cost and if your insurance will cover it.

Many communities have free naloxone distribution programs. Contact your local health department to find out if there is one in your community.

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Last Revised: August 30, 2019