Learn / How to Use Naloxone: What Is Narcan and Where to Find It

How to Use Naloxone: What Is Narcan and Where to Find It

Sarah Shawaker
 March 13th, 2024|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Dr. Malasri Chaudhery-Malgeri, Ph.D.

Key Points

  • Learn how to administer the different types of Narcan.
  • Discover where you can buy Narcan.
  • You can become a trained Narcan administer.

If someone is overdosing, immediately call 911 or local emergency services.

Narcan, or naloxone, is used to reverse opioid overdose. Opioids, such as heroin, opium, morphine, codeine, and fentanyl, can be legal prescription medications or illegal substances. 

Overdose occurs when an opioid’s depressant effects on the central nervous system cause life-threatening reactions. Narcan reverses an overdose by binding to the same brain receptors as opioids, thereby blocking the opioids from attaching to the receptors. This helps restore normal breathing and consciousness.

Narcan is usually administered through a nasal spray, and it can also be injected.

When to Use Narcan

It’s possible for opioid users to accidentally ingest too much at once and overdose. Other substances like MDMA can be cut with opioids, such as fentanyl, to lower production costs. If someone is displaying the signs of overdose, even if they didn’t knowingly take an opioid, you can still administer narcannarcan won’t harm someone who didn’t ingest opioids1.

Overdoses usually include respiratory failure, where breathing becomes slow, shallow, or even stops completely. Other signs of overdose1 include:

  • Unconsciousness 
  • Very small pupils
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to speak
  • Faint heartbeat
  • Limp arms and legs
  • Pale skin
  • Purple lips and fingernails

Without immediate medical intervention, an opioid overdose can be fatal. In addition to using narcan in the event of an overdose, immediately call 911 or local emergency services.

Until emergency services arrive, you can help someone who’s overdosing2 by assisting them to sit or lay down in an open space. You can administer CPR if you are qualified, and if their skin is blue, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Additionally, use Narcan.

How to Administer Narcan

The American Medical Association created instructions showing how to administer Narcan3. You can also watch in video format:

If you are using NARCAN nasal spray, follow these steps:

  1. Peel back the package and remove the device. Put your thumb on the bottom of the plunger and two fingers on the nozzle.
  2. Place and hold the tip of the nozzle in either nostril until your fingers touch the bottom of the patient’s nose.
  3. Press the plunger firmly to release the dose into the patient’s nose.

Tip: When administering a nasal spray, help the patient gently tip their chin upward. This helps open their airways so the spray can better reach the bloodstream.

If you are using EVZIO auto-injector, follow these steps:

  1. Pull the auto-injector from the outer case.
  2. Firmly pull off the red safety guard; do not touch the black base (this is where the needle comes out).
  3. Place the black end of the auto-injector against the outer thigh, through clothing if necessary.
  4. Press firmly and hold in place for 5 seconds. (There will be a distinct “hiss” and “click” sound when working properly. The needle will not be visible after use.)

If you are using yellow cap nasal spray, follow these steps:

  1. Pry off the syringe’s yellow caps (both sides).
  2. Pry off the purple cap on the naloxone capsule. 
  3. Grip the clear plastic wings on the spray nozzle.
  4. Thread the spray nozzle on the syringe.
  5. Gently screw the naloxone capsule into the barrel of the syringe.  
  6. Insert white spray nozzle into the patient’s nostril. Give a short, firm push on the end of the naloxone capsule to spray.
  7. Administer half of the capsule into each nostril.

If you are using an intramuscular syringe needle, follow these steps:

  1. Inject 1 cc of naloxone straight into a muscle, such as the thigh, outer side of the glute, and shoulder.

Administer another dose of Narcan if the patient doesn’t respond/wake up after 2-3 minutes.

Where to Find Narcan

Fortunately, Narcan is becoming more widely available. You can purchase Narcan over the counter in many pharmacies. Local health clinics and community health centers may offer naloxone training and distribution. 

You can also order it online from websites like Narcan.com4. Some states will even send it to you for free—search “free Narcan _(your state or city)_” to find an organization.

How to Care for Someone After You Give Narcan

After you administer Narcan to someone, stay with the person. Emergency services should already be dialed and on their way, but don’t leave the person’s side until medical professionals assist them.

If the person is not breathing or has a weak pulse, continue with CPR if you are trained to do so. Otherwise, ensure the person is lying comfortably on their side with their airways clear to avoid choking on vomit. Once medical professionals arrive, discuss all relevant details to the overdose and what you have done to assist the person (including the type of Narcan you administered and how many doses).

How to Become Trained to Administer Narcan

You can become a trained Narcan administrator through online courses or in-person events. Websites such as Overdose Lifeline5, The Center for Disease Control6, End Overdose7, and American Red Cross8 provide virtual training. You can typically become certified in an hour or less.

Sometimes, you can receive training in person at harm reduction events. Some states may have a map showing where you can get trained, such as Colorado’s End Overdose page9.

However, even if you are not Narcan trained, you can and should still use it to save someone’s life.

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