What is Naloxone?

Every year, tens of thousands of people die from opioid overdoses. With this in mind, it’s easy to feel helpless when you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to opioids.

You may feel as though there’s nothing you can do to help yourself or help your loved one. That’s not the case, though, thanks to the many treatments available for opioid addiction. And Methadone isn’t the only one out there anymore, though that’s probably what comes to mind when you think of treatment.

Naloxone is a life-saving drug that can be very beneficial to individuals in their battle with opioid addiction.

Read on to learn more about Naloxone and it’s benefits.

What is Naloxone HCL?

Naloxone is the drug most commonly used in the event of an acute opioid overdose. Naloxone works by binding to opioid receptors. It reverses and blocks the effects of opioids on the brain. You may be familiar with it by its brand name, Narcan.

When Naloxone is administered after an individual has overdosed on opioid drugs, it can reverse their effects and restore normal respiration. This helps to buy the individuals more time (and potentially saves their lives) while they wait for emergency medical services to arrive.

You may also already be familiar with Naloxone because it is commonly paired with the drug Buprenorphine as a very effective addiction treatment. To learn more about medications that utilize both drugs, you can find our post on that topic here.

Is It Safe?

Naloxone is a very safe medication. So far, there’s no evidence of serious adverse reactions to it. As with any other medication, though, there can be a risk of side effects. These include the more mild effects like headaches, sweating, nausea and vomiting, but can also include more serious effects like seizures and heart arrhythmia.

It’s important to note, too, that Naloxone only works if a person has opioids in their system. If opioids are absent and the individual is suffering from other symptoms, the medication will not have any effect (negative or positive).

Who Should Use It?

Naloxone should be used on anyone who has overdosed on opioids. It appears to be safe to use on pregnant women, as well as women who are breastfeeding, although these women should still talk to their doctor as soon as possible after receiving Naloxone.

Because Naloxone is used in overdosing scenarios, many physicians have started to co-prescribe Naloxone to people who are receiving prescriptions for opioid drugs as a precautionary measure. This co-prescription is especially common for individuals who are taking opioids in high amounts, as well as those who have a history of substance abuse, mental health disorders, or medical conditions that may make them more susceptible to overdose than others.

Individuals who have a family member or loved one dealing with opioid addiction may also be able to get a prescription for Naloxone to have on hand in the event that their loved one overdoses.

The only people who should not use Naloxone are those who have an allergy to the drug.

In What Forms Can You Use It?

Naloxone is available in a few different forms. It can be administered as a nasal spray or as an injectable medication.

In both forms, Naloxone is easy to administer, even for those who do not have prior medical training. That being said, if you are considering getting a prescription for Naloxone to help a loved one, it’s worth your while to learn how to use the medication beforehand. That way, in the event that your loved one does overdose, you’ll know how to respond and won’t have to waste time reading instructions.

Man at the pharmacy

Learn More About Naloxone

It doesn’t matter if you suffer from opioid addiction yourself and are working toward sobriety or you want to have access to the medication for a close friend or family member. Either way, there are definite benefits to having a discussion with your doctor or pharmacist about whether it is right for you.


About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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