What is naloxone (generic Narcan)?
Naloxone, which is more commonly known by its brand name Narcan, is a medication that is used to rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means that it binds to the opioid receptors in the central nervous system and blocks the action of opioids such as heroin, morphine, and prescription painkillers like oxycodone.
Opioids can cause respiratory depression, a life-threatening health issue that decreases – to the point of eliminating – a person’s innate drive to breath and causes oxygen deprivation, coma, or even death if not addressed. Naloxone counteracts the dangerous respiratory depression that characterizes an overdose, allowing the individual to breathe normally again. Due to its critical role in combating the opioid crisis, naloxone has become an essential tool for first responders, healthcare professionals, and bystanders when treating an opioid overdose. However, it is important to note that naloxone is not a treatment for opioid use disorder.
Naloxone is available both over-the-counter and as a prescription. It is sold in the form of an injectable solution, as a pre-filled auto-injector, and as a nasal spray (sold under the brand names Narcan and Kloxxado).