What is Naloxone?


What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is a medication that can counteract the dangerous effects of opioids or reverse the effects of opioid overdose. It is often used in emergency situations, but it has other uses as well.

This article will discuss:

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop or reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids like heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. Naloxone blocks opioid receptor sites, reversing the toxic effects of an overdose.

Naloxone is administered when a patient shows signs of opioid overdose. The medication can be given by intranasal spray or by intramuscular (into the muscle), subcutaneous (under the skin), or intravenous injection.

Naloxone is also added to buprenorphine (brand name Suboxone) to decrease the chances of diversion and misuse of the medication.

Doctors often prescribe naloxone to patients who:

  • Receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Take high doses of opioids for long-term management of chronic pain
  • Take rotating opioid medication regimens
  • Have been discharged from emergency care following opioid overdose or intoxication
  • Take certain extended-release or long-acting opioid medications
  • Are completing mandatory opioid detoxification or abstinence programs
  • Are prescribed opioids and benzodiazepines



Side Effects of Naloxone

Patients who experience an allergic reaction from naloxone, such as hives or swelling in the face, lips, or throat, should seek medical help immediately. They should not drive or perform other potentially unsafe tasks.

Use of naloxone may cause symptoms of opioid withdrawal, including:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or irritable
  • Body aches
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Diarrhea, stomach pain, or nausea
  • Fever, chills, or goosebumps
  • Sneezing or runny nose in the absence of a cold

Naloxone Fast Facts

  • Pregnant women can safely use naloxone, but only in limited doses and under the supervision of a doctor.
  • A doctor or pharmacist can show patients, family members, or caregivers how to administer naloxone.
  • In emergencies, an intravenous injection of naloxone every two to three minutes is recommended.
  • Patients given naloxone products – whether automatic injection or nasal spray – should keep the medication with them at all times.
  • Naloxone should be replaced immediately after the designated expiration date.
  • Naloxone is effective in cases of opioid overdose and in cases where opioids are combined with sedatives or stimulants.
  • Naloxone is not effective in treating non-opioid overdoses (i.e. overdoses caused by benzodiazepines, cocaine, and amphetamines).

Opioid Overdose

Opioid overdose can happen for a variety of reasons, especially if you:

  • Take opioids to get high
  • Take an extra dose of a prescription opioid or take it too often (either accidentally or on purpose)
  • Mix an opioid with other medicines, illegal drugs, or alcohol. (An overdose can be fatal when mixing an opioid and certain anti-anxiety medicines, such as Xanax or Valium)
  • Take an opioid medicine that was prescribed for someone else (Children are especially at risk of an accidental overdose.)

Opioid overdose is life-threatening and requires immediate emergency attention. Recognizing the signs of opioid overdose is essential to saving lives. Learn more about opioid overdose here.

See How You Can Help

While it may seem like a moral weakness, opioid addiction may affect the parts of the brain that control impulses, judgment, and decision-making. Learning more about opioid addiction may help you understand why the person you care about may behave the way they do.

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