Dose of Reality: Safer Use

There are many ways for people who use opioids to protect their health—from carrying NARCAN® to finding a substance use treatment program or peer support group. But until you (or someone you love) is ready to get help, it’s important to lower your chances of experiencing an infection, overdose, or other dangerous health risks. Following a few tips for safer opioid use can help you and the people you care about stay alive and well.

Person talking with two other people in a room

What can you do

Opioids come in a variety of forms, and there are simple steps everyone can take to use opioids safely. Everyone deserves to take care of themselves. So practice, or share these steps with a loved one, to make opioid use safer.

  • Never use alone. 
  • Never mix with other drugs, including alcohol.
  • Take by mouth, rather than injecting, smoking, or snorting.
  • Carry naloxone/NARCAN®.

If you inject opioids, take these extra precautions:

  • Use new needles and supplies every time. Do not reuse your own needle and supplies. Do not share needles or supplies with others. 
  • Rotate injection sites and use soap and water at the injection site before the injection. 
  • Visit a doctor or health clinic at least once a year to get tested for hepatitis C and HIV or get care for wounds that don’t get better. 

NARCAN® saves lives

You can reverse an opioid overdose if you know what to do and you act in time. Whether you use opioids, love someone who does, or just care about the people in your community, it’s important to be prepared if you encounter someone who is experiencing an opioid overdose.

Carrying NARCAN® can save lives. NARCAN® is the nasal spray version of naloxone, the drug that blocks the harmful effects of opioids on the brain. It is specific to opioids. If opioids are not involved with the overdose, it will not cause any harm. 

Where can you get NARCAN®

NARCAN® can be purchased without a prescription at more than 500 pharmacies in Wisconsin. Nearly 100 organizations across the state offer it at no cost to people who attend a free training session through the NARCAN® Direct Program. Use the map below to find out where you can get NARCAN® or view a spreadsheet of all of the locations (Excel).

How to give someone NARCAN® 

NARCAN® is simple to use. Each NARCAN® device contains one dose.

  1. Call 911 and follow the operator's instructions.
  2. Place the tip of the nozzle in either nostril until your fingers touch the nose.
  3. Press the plunger firmly to release the dose.
  4. Give rescue breaths if needed.

NARCAN® usually starts working within a few minutes and lasts from 30 to 90 minutes. More than one dose of NARCAN® is sometimes needed. If there is no response after two to three minutes, give a second dose of NARCAN® in the other nostril.

Watch the following video to learn how to recognize an opioid overdose and how to use NARCAN® to save a life. 

Learn more

These resources are available in English, Hmong, and Spanish.

Carrying NARCAN® — a Lifesaving Dose of Reality, P-03093
This flyer answers frequently asked questions about NARCAN®.

Signs of an Overdose/How to Administer NARCAN®, P-03094
This wallet card provides an overview of the signs of an opioid overdose and how to administer NARCAN®.

Last Revised: November 22, 2021