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What is Narcan?

Narcan, generically called naloxone, is an opioid antidote. It is given to someone overdosing on heroin or opioid painkillers to keep him breathing. Narcan blocks the effects of an opioid and stops the overdose. Narcan, itself, will not get you high. If you give it to someone who has not taken opioids, it will have no effect at all.

Narcan is a short acting drug and not intended to be a permanent fix. Its main purpose is to provide extra time for emergency medical care to arrive while reducing the risk of damage to the brain or other organs from lack of oxygen. It should begin to work within five minutes and should last about 30 minutes. This is sometimes enough time to get past the danger, but if the person has taken a very large dose or taken a dose of a long acting opioid, she may go back into overdose when the drug wears off. Once the Narcan has been administered, the person should get medical attention as soon as possible.

Narcan is an opioid antagonist that works by knocking opioids out of the opioid receptors in the brain. Narcan molecules are more strongly attracted to the brain’s opioid receptor than the opioids are, which allows the molecules to dislodge the opioids. Unlike the opioid molecules, Narcan does not activate opioid receptors. They only block receptors, making them inaccessible to opioids.

Narcan is injected into the arm, thigh, or buttocks. It is usually a prescription medicine but many states, in an effort to curb overdose deaths, have made it easy to get. Some states have programs allowing doctors to train family and friends of addicts to administer Narcan, and those people can train others to administer it. This is called a “train the trainer” model and is intended to increase the likelihood that, for any given overdose, someone nearby will have Narcan and know how to administer it.

Narcan itself has no negative effects on someone not using opioids, but as an opioid antagonist, it will immediately put the overdosing person into withdrawal, which can be extremely unpleasant and might include, nausea, vomiting, agitation, sweating, and elevated heart rate. Because Narcan is short acting, the withdrawal will be temporary, unlike other opioid antagonists like Vivitrol, which can last for weeks.  

If you are interested in getting Narcan, it’s a safe bet that either you or someone close to you is dealing with a serious addiction. Gardens Wellness Center can help. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at Don’t wait until it’s too late.