Lifesaving Naloxone

At a glance

  • Naloxone is a safe medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids, including heroin and fentanyl.
  • Learn more about where to get naloxone and how to use it.
Lifesaving naloxone on green background

What is naloxone?

Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids—including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications—when given in time.1

Naloxone is easy to use and small to carry. There are two forms of naloxone that anyone can use without medical training or authorization: prefilled nasal spray and injectable.

Naloxone nasal spray.
Nasal spray: Prefilled devices that spray naloxone into the nose.

The decision on which form of naloxone to use or carry can depend many factors such as cost, availability, and comfort level. Both are safe, effective, and can help save a life.

Bottle of injectable naloxone.
Injectable: Medication given by injection into a muscle or under the skin.

How does naloxone work and how do you use it?

Naloxone quickly reverses an overdose by blocking the effects of opioids. It can restore normal breathing within 2 to 3 minutes in a person whose breath has slowed, or even stopped, as a result of opioid overdose. Start by administering one dose of naloxone and wait 2-3 minutes to see if normal breathing returns before giving a second dose. Giving more than one dose of naloxone may not be necessary.2

Naloxone won't harm someone if they're overdosing on drugs other than opioids, so it's always best to use it if you think someone is overdosing.2

If you give someone naloxone, stay with them until emergency help arrives.2

Why carry naloxone?

Naloxone saves lives

More than 80,000 of the 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved an opioid.3 One study found that bystanders were present in more than one in three overdoses involving opioids.4 With the right tools, bystanders can act to prevent overdose deaths. Anyone can carry naloxone, give it to someone experiencing an overdose, and potentially save a life.

Who should carry naloxone?

If you or someone you know is at increased risk for opioid overdose, especially those experiencing opioid use disorder (OUD), you should carry naloxone and keep it at home. People who are taking high-dose opioid medications (greater or equal to 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day) prescribed by a doctor, people who use opioids and benzodiazepines together, and people who use illegal opioids like heroin or fentanyl should all carry naloxone. Because you can't use naloxone on yourself, let others know you have it in case you experience an opioid overdose.

Carrying naloxone is no different than carrying an epinephrine auto-injector (commonly known by the brand name EpiPen) for someone with allergies. It simply provides an extra layer of protection for those at a higher risk for overdose.

In over 40% of overdose deaths, someone else was nearby.4Having naloxone available allows bystanders to help a fatal overdose and save lives.

Naloxone is available in your state

Naloxone is available in all 50 states and over the counter. If you have been prescribed high-dose opioids, talk to your doctor about co-prescribing naloxone. You can also get naloxone from community-based naloxone programs and most syringe services programs.

You can now get naloxone over the counter‎

You don't need a prescription to purchase naloxone. Check your local pharmacy, convenience store, grocery store, or gas station to find where you can buy naloxone over the counter.
Content Source:
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics System, Mortality 2018-2021 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released in 2023. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 2018-2021, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at on Mar 5, 2024
  4. Mattson CL, O’Donnell J, Kariisa M, Seth P, Scholl L, Gladden RM. Opportunities to Prevent Overdose Deaths Involving Prescription and Illicit Opioids, 11 States, July 2016–June 2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:945–951. DOI: