What is naloxone?
Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist—meaning that it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications.
How is naloxone given?
There are three FDA-approved formulations of naloxone:
Injectable (professional training required)
Generic brands of injectable naloxone vials are offered by a variety of companies that are listed in the FDA Orange Book under “naloxone” (look for “injectable”).
Note: There has been widespread use of improvised emergency kits that combine an injectable formulation of naloxone with an atomizer that can deliver naloxone intranasally. Use of this product requires the user to be trained on proper assembly and administration. These improvised intranasal devices may not deliver naloxone levels equivalent to FDA-approved products. In fact, the manufacturer of an internasal atomizer device issued a voluntary recall on 10/27/16 noting that some of the devices “may not deliver a fully atomized plume of medication, making the drug potentially less effective.” An approved, prefilled nasal spray is now available (see below).
EVZIO® is a prefilled auto-injection device that makes it easy for families or emergency personnel to inject naloxone quickly into the outer thigh. Once activated, the device provides verbal instruction to the user describing how to deliver the medication, similar to automated defibrillators.
Prepackaged Nasal Spray
NARCAN® Nasal Spray is a prefilled, needle-free device that requires no assembly and is sprayed into one nostril while patients lay on their back.
Note: Both NARCAN® Nasal Spray and EVZIO® are packaged in a carton containing two doses to allow for repeat dosing if needed. They are relatively easy to use and suitable for home use in emergency situations.
Where can I get naloxone?
YouTube embedded video: https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/LLQY5PkD9MU?rel=0
Naloxone is a prescription drug. You can buy naloxone in many pharmacies, in some cases without bringing in a prescription from a physician. Law enforcement, EMS, and community-based naloxone distribution programs can apply to be a Qualified Purchaser to order naloxone or work with their state or local health departments. Here are some resources to help you find naloxone in your area:
- Naloxone finder – This website also offers access to training for first responders and potential bystanders.
Some pharmacies offer naloxone in an outpatient setting (without bringing in a prescription from a physician). Check with your local pharmacy. Here is a sampling:
- CVS stores – no prescription needed in Ohio, Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin
- Walgreens stores – available in many states without a prescription by the end of 2016
- Discount program for EVZIO®
- NARCAN® Nasal Spray