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Tools to help you learn more about naloxone distribution programs

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is an easy-to-use, lifesaving medication that can reverse the effects of overdose from heroin or other opioids, including morphine, methadone, codeine, and other drugs derived from the poppy plant like shirka and khanka.

A safe medicine with no abuse potential, naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it ejects heroin and other opioids from receptors in the brain, reversing the respiratory depression caused by an overdose of these drugs. Naloxone has been used for decades in medical settings, and is included in the World Health Organizations’ List of Essential Medications. Side effects beyond opioid withdrawal are rare, and the medication works within two to eight minutes to restore breathing – returning the victim to consciousness.

Why Use Naloxone?

An opioid overdose is a very serious condition. It may cause death or severe brain, heart or lung damage. However, drug users or others at the scene of an overdose are often very reluctant to call for emergency assistance because they fear police will accompany the ambulance, and arrest them for drug possession or use. Even if they are called, emergency personnel may not respond if the location is known as a place where people use drugs. For all of these reasons, it is critically important to ensure naloxone is available at the scene of an overdose.

Why Give Naloxone to Drug Users?

Similar to using an epi-pen for an allergic reaction, a layperson can administer naloxone intramuscularly (into the arm or leg, with a syringe), or intranasally (spraying with an atomizer up the nose) with brief and basic training. Equipping drug users with naloxone and training them to use it can ensure that overdose victims get the help they need, at the moment they need it.