Naloxone 101

Writer: Therese Wilson

Naloxone- a name you’ve heard somewhere along the conversation of the drug crisis, but what is it? For those who know roughly about the opioid crisis, you have an idea of this miracle antidote. But, it’s not as ambiguous or scary as people may think. This article will clear up some of your misconceptions about naloxone, tell you where to purchase it, and how to administer it. But as a disclaimer- this is a very basic introduction to naloxone.


So let’s start with the very basics. What does it do? Naloxone is a fast acting antidote to an opioid overdose. Let me emphasize this- it only works with opioid overdoses. Naloxone knocks the chemical compounds of opioids off of the opioid receptors of the brain. That’s why it won’t work for cocaine or any other drugs.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), “there are three FDA-approved formulations of naloxone.” This fast acting drug is injectable, auto-injectable, or nasally administered. The most accessible and easiest formulation to use is the nasally administered version. Naloxone in this form is NARCAN® Nasal Spray- it requires no training to use.

NARCAN® is a ready to use nasal spray that comes with two doses. To use, the person administering must shoot the spray into one nostril of the overdosed person. It’s crucial that this person is on their back (NIDA). Once administered, you need to call emergency responders immediately. If you are unsure of whether or not to administer NARCAN®, do it anyways. There are no negative effects to administering the drug if the person has not overdosed from an opioid. But, don’t go around using this frivolously. Use it if you think there is an emergency at hand.

Now that you have the very basic outline of naloxone- let’s discuss where to get it. This is actually found in pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid. And, you don’t need a prescription in a majority of states to purchase it. CVS has a list of the 41 states where naloxone is prescription-free.

Even if you think you don’t need naloxone, you should still purchase it. Every household, college dorm, apartment building, workplace should have naloxone on-hand as part of basic first aid. Addiction knows no, race, gender, age, etc. You don’t know what addiction looks like, so you don’t know who may need it.