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What Is Narcan and How Do I Obtain it? A Response to Opioid Overdose Deaths

What is Narcan?

Narcan (Generic named drug naloxone) is a prescription medicine that temporarily stops the effect of opioids. This helps a person start breathing again and wake up from an opioid overdose. Here are some basic facts about Naloxone:

  • only works on opioids. It has no effect on someone who has not taken opioids;
  • cannot be used to get high and is not addictive;
  • has a long safety history. Adverse side effects are rare;
  • can be easily and safely administered by persons with no medical training.

Narcan attaches to the same brain receptors as opioids, but more strongly. Naloxone kicks off the opioids and “takes over” the receptors. This restores breathing and consciousness in about 2-5 minutes. However, when the naloxone wears off in about 30-90 minutes, any opioids still in the brain can return to the receptors. The person may stop breathing again so it is important to call 911 or emergency services in the event of an opioid overdose.

Where can I get Narcan?

You can get a prescription for Narcan from your clinician. Many pharmacies also have a “standing order” for Narcan—you can buy it without a prescription. This includes all MGH and Brigham & Women’s pharmacies and most CVS and Walgreens stores. Other Massachusetts pharmacies with a standing order are listed on this website.

Narcan device—How to Use

  • Peel the foil off the back of the plastic package. Take the device out.
  • Hold the device with your thumb on the bottom of the plunger and your fingers on either side of the nozzle.
  • Put the nozzle up one side of the person’s nose.
  • Press down on the plunger. Spray all of the medicine into the person’s nose. You don’t need to spray into both sides of their nose, just one side.

You can watch a video by the makers of Narcan for a guide here:

Information taken from stopoverdose.org and PCOI.

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