What is Naloxone?
Naloxone (also known by brand names Narcan® and Evzio®) is the medication historically used in hospitals and ambulances to reverse opioid overdose and keep people alive. Opioids are pain medications (like Vicodin, OxyContin, morphine, methadone, fentanyl, Percocet, Opana) and heroin.
Naloxone is only effective for opioid overdoses. It cannot reverse an overdose from alcohol, benzodiazepines, cocaine, or other drugs if opioids are not present. But since most overdose deaths involve opioids, it is an important rescue medication.
Naloxone is very safe. Giving naloxone to someone who has not taken opioids will not harm them, so it is routinely used whenever overdose is suspected.
Naloxone, a prescription medication, is an opioid antagonist drug that reverses the effects that opioids have in the brain. When a person overdoses on opioids, the opioid overwhelms specific receptors in the brain, slowly decreasing respiration and heart rate before finally stopping it altogether. Naloxone has a very high affinity for these receptors and effectively pushes the opioid off of the brain receptor. This action allows a person’s body to resume respiration. Naloxone has been used for years by emergency medical technicians and emergency room doctors to reverse opioid overdose emergencies. Outside of this singular purpose, naloxone has no effect on the body, and poses no danger to anyone who accidentally administers it to themselves or someone else.
Naloxone is a proven public health response to the epidemic of opioid overdose emergencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that since 1996, when the first program to distribute naloxone to Lay Rescuers (REVIVE!’s terminology for community members who have been trained on naloxone administration) was implemented, 152,283 persons received training on administering naloxone. Those individuals have saved 26,463 lives by administering naloxone to individuals who were experiencing an opioid overdose emergency.
What Does Naloxone Look Like?
Naloxone is available in four common formulations.
This type is the least expensive and is easy to use, but involves a syringe injection.
This type does not require a needle, but is a little more complicated to assemble.
This is an easier-to-assemble intranasal formulation.
This auto-injector is very easy to administer and is very durable, but can be expensive if your insurance doesn’t cover it.
Note that the use of any naloxone formulation can cause the overdose victim to experience opioid withdrawal symptoms. These are usually not serious health concerns.
How To Get Naloxone
Naloxone – Virginia Statewide Standing Order: A Standing order serves as a prescription for all Virginians who would like to obtain Naloxone. Virginia residents can now request Naloxone directly from the pharmacy without out having to visit their doctor or medical provider first.
In Virginia, a person who is authorized by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to train individuals on the administration of naloxone for use in opioid overdose reversal and who is acting on behalf of an organization that provides services to individuals at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose or training in the administration of naloxone for overdose reversal and that has obtained a controlled substances registration from the Board of Pharmacy pursuant to § 54.1-3423 may dispense naloxone to a person who has completed a training program on the administration of naloxone for opioid overdose reversal approved by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
REVIVE! is the Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education (OONE) program for the Commonwealth of Virginia. REVIVE! provides training to professionals, stakeholders, and others on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose emergency with the administration of naloxone (Narcan®). REVIVE! is a collaborative effort led by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) working alongside the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Health Professions, and other stakeholders.
Training and More Information
Anyone interested in obtaining naloxone should learn how to use it.
For more information about naloxone or overdose prevention in Virginia, contact Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services.
Other online information is also available: