Although they are commonly used in modern medicine, opioids are extremely powerful, addictive, and dangerous drugs; an individual’s opioid use can quickly turn into abuse and then into an overdose. Thankfully, Narcan – a name brand for a drug called naloxone – can quickly reverse an opioid overdose, possibly saving a person’s life. But, just what is this magical, life-saving drug, how does it work, and when should it be and not be used?      

Narcan and Naloxone Explained

Narcan is the brand name of a drug called naloxone. This drug is a life-saving medicine that can be used to reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone can do this because it is an opioid antagonist. This means that the ingredients in naloxone can attach themselves to opioid receptors in a person’s body and reverse and block the effects that opioids have on the body. 

What is Naloxone Used for? 

Naloxone is used only to help individuals who are overdosing on opioids. Naloxone will reverse and block the effects of any kind of opioid, including codeine, fentanyl, heroin hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine. This drug has no effect on a person who does not have any opioids in their system. Although it can block the effects of opioids in the human body, naloxone is not a treatment for an opioid addiction – only an opioid overdose. 

How is Naloxone Delivered?  

When a person is showing signs of an opioid overdose, naloxone can be administered to them in one of two ways: injection or nasal spray.


The most effective way to deliver naloxone into an individual’s body is through an injection. However, this often requires some training to ensure the injection is given properly and with the right dosage of naloxone. When delivering naloxone this way, the drug is often injected by needle into a muscle. However, it can also be delivered into a vein. 

Nasal Spray 

Narcan is a form of naloxone that is delivered to a person’s system through a nasal spray. Although nasal spray versions of naloxone like Narcan can be less effective, they are much more convenient than injections. Narcan is FDA approved, prefilled, requires no assembly, and simply sprayed into a person’s nostril while they lay on their back. No training is required to use a nasal spray version of naloxone, making it a much easier way to help save an overdosing individual’s life. 

Can Anyone Give a Person Naloxone for an Overdose? 

Almost anyone can give a person who is overdosing on opioids naloxone. It does not require a medical professional or a person with formal training. However, injecting a person with naloxone should ideally only ever be done by someone who has had some training with injections. Nasal spray versions of naloxone like Narcan are an excellent solution for those who have not been trained on how to give injections. Most people can administer a nasal spray like Narcan without issue. 

Precautions when Using Naloxone

Although naloxone reverses and blocks the effects of opioids in a person’s body, the effects of naloxone typically only last for 30 to 90 minutes. Unfortunately, many opioids remain present in the body longer than that, so a person can still potentially overdose on opioids even after receiving a dose of naloxone. This is why anyone aiding a person who is overdosing on opioids should call 911 for medical aid and not rely solely on the use of naloxone.  

How Much Does Narcan Cost? 

The prices of Narcan and other drugs containing naloxone can vary. Some insurances cover the cost of these drugs but not always. Anyone can check what the retail price of narcan is at their local pharmacy.  

Where Can Narcan be Purchased? 

Most pharmacies carry some form of naloxone, including Narcan. In some states, it is possible to receive naloxone from a pharmacist without a prescription. However, Narcan and naloxone-based medicines can often be found at community-based programs, public health groups, and local health departments.  

Looking for Treatment for Opioid Addiction?

If you or a loved one is living with an opioid addiction and at risk for an opioid overdose, help is available in your area! At Knoxville Recovery Center, our team of addiction specialists provide a variety of therapies and treatments for opioid addiction, including Narcan for those who need it. Contact us today to learn more about all our facility has to offer!   

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