Narcan® Information Center

What is NARCAN®?

NARCAN®, also known by its generic name naloxone, is a medication used to rapidly reverse the effects of opioid overdose. Opioids -- such as heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers -- can slow down or even stop a person's breathing, which can be life-threatening.

Naloxone works as an opioid receptor antagonist, blocking the effects of opioids and reversing their potentially fatal effects on respiration. It is typically administered as a nasal spray or injection and is a crucial tool for first responders, health care professionals and caregivers to save the lives of people who have overdosed on opioids.

NARCAN® can provide a temporary reprieve, giving the person time to seek medical attention for their overdose and a chance at treatment for their substance use disorder.

Who created NARCAN®?

NARCAN® was first developed in 1961 to address the way breathing is depressed during opioid overdose, which often can be fatal. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1971 and has since become a crucial medication in emergency medical settings.

What is the primary use of NARCAN®?

NARCAN® is primarily used to reverse the life-threatening effects of opioid overdoses.

Opioids, such as heroin, fentanyl, and prescription pain medications, can lead to respiratory or breathing depression, which, if left untreated, can result in death. NARCAN® works by quickly binding to opioid receptors in the brain, displacing the opioids, and temporarily reversing their effects.

Key things to know about NARCAN® usage include:

  • Reverses Respiratory Depression: NARCAN® rapidly restores normal breathing patterns, ensuring that the person can continue to breathe effectively.
  • Emergency Response: It is often administered by first responders, healthcare professionals, and bystanders in emergency situations.
  • Safety Net: Narcan serves as a critical safety net, buying precious time for individuals experiencing an overdose until they can receive professional medical care.

How do I use NARCAN®?

Understanding how to properly administer NARCAN® is crucial to its effectiveness and can potentially save someone's life.

The video below, provided by canaPHEM, is an excellent resource in demonstrating how NARCAN® should be administered:

Where can I get NARCAN®?

NARCAN® is increasingly accessible to the general public to help combat the rising opioid epidemic. It is available through various channels:

  • Pharmacies: Many states in the United States permit pharmacists to dispense NARCAN® without a prescription, making it easily accessible to those who need it. In Pennsylvania, a standing order from the Department of Health enables any resident to buy naloxone at pharmacies across the state.
  • Prescription: A health care provider can write a prescription for NARCAN®, which can then be filled at a pharmacy.
  • Community Distribution Programs: Some communities and organizations offer free NARCAN® distribution programs to combat opioid overdoses. Be sure to follow our Events page to discover when and where our team is organizing NARCAN® distribution events.
  • Online Purchase: Order free NARCAN® online through the mail at Next Distro, a harm-prevention agency. Order free NARCAN® in Pennsylvania or another state.

How Is Stop The Judgment Project Educating the Public About NARCAN®?

Our team is dedicated to educating the public on the complexity of substance use disorder when combined with a mental health disorder, and how these two diseases often are linked. This includes creating awareness and educational opportunities on how NARCAN® can be used to save the life of someone battling these disorders.

From NARCAN® distribution events to educational opportunities, our team wants to be sure everyone is prepared to handle an overdose situation. This knowledge and awareness could save the life of a loved one.

Sherry Jo Matt and Thomas Bott of Stop The Judgment Project attend an event

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