Naloxone temporarily blocks or reverses the side effects of opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone, morphine, codeine, Vicodin® and others. It is used to treat an opioid overdose in an emergency situation, but is not a substitute for emergency medical care. Although available both as an injectable and a nasal spray, the nasal spray is gaining in popularity because it is a ready-to-use, 1 ml prefilled single dose. The drug takes effect in 1-3 minutes, usually before medical personnel can get to the subject.
It is important to remember that naloxone is effective for opioid overdoses only.1 Side effects are rare and include opioid withdrawal, resulting in irritability, runny nose, sweating, nausea and vomiting. The only contraindication for use is for individuals allergic to the ingredients. There are no contraindications for use in children or the elderly.
Although naloxone is a prescription drug, it is not a controlled substance. Its use and availability are governed by local and state law, not federal. Walgreens announced in 2016 that it will make naloxone available without a prescription in 35 states.2CVS made a similar news release in 2016. According to the Network for Public Health Law, as of April 15, 2016, all but five states have passed legislation designed to improve layperson naloxone access.1 , making it easier to obtain the drug and use it to save lives. Many states have also enacted Good Samaritan laws for bystanders. Pennsylvania made naloxone available to public high schools in 2016; Ohio has similar legislation pending. There is also legislation pending in Congress that would allocate federal funds to fight the opioid epidemic.