Skip to content Skip to footer

Could you save someone from an opioid overdose? What to know about the lifesaving medication naloxone.


Would you be able to save a life if the moment comes? 

Overdoses can happen to anyone who uses opioids, whether illicitly, accidentally, or by prescription. If you know someone who uses or has access to the powerful painkillers, then you should know what to do in case they take too much. That means being ready with a dose of naloxone. 

When the federal Food and Drug Administration approved naloxone under the brand name Narcan for over-the-counter use in 2023, the agency reported more than 100,000 fatal overdoses in the U.S. over the prior year. That figure was primarily driven by synthetic opioids like illicit fentanyl. 

Opioids like fentanyl, morphine, and oxycodone are widespread and commonly prescribed to treat acute pain. They are already present in our communities. They can lead to addiction and abuse in teens and adults, but even an accidental misreading of a prescription could lead to disaster if too large a dose is taken. 

Fortunately, naloxone is now also widely available. The same medicine used by emergency responders can now be obtained in places like drug stores, convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations, and online, including through the Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug & Alcohol Commission’s We Fight Fentanyl campaign. 

The purpose of naloxone is to give bystanders a chance to intervene in an overdose and save a life. The CDC says carrying naloxone is like someone with allergies carrying an EpiPen — it’s stigma-free protection against a serious medical episode. 

What is naloxone? 

Naloxone Hydrochloride is a generic medicine that helps temporarily reverse the side effects of an opioid overdose. It goes by brand names including Narcan, Kloxxado, and Zimhi. Naloxone has been used by medical professionals for 40 years, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 

Opioids work by blocking pain receptors in your body’s nervous system. Naloxone, on the other hand, will knock opioids 

from those receptors and take their place, blocking more opioids from attaching. 

The effects of naloxone last about 30 to 90 minutes. But the effects of an opioid overdose can outlast any single dose of naloxone, so it’s important to call 911 as soon as an overdose is suspected. Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan Law means callers cannot get in trouble for being present for, witnessing, or reporting an overdose. 

Who should carry naloxone? 

The short answer: Anyone. 

Certainly, those who knowingly use opioids, whether illicitly or prescribed, should keep naloxone with them and at home. Because no one can use it on themselves, it’s important that opioid users make sure someone close to them has it and knows how to use it. 

Some doctors who prescribe opioids may for safety’s sake issue a side order for naloxone. Anyone who knows someone who uses opioids — again, even on a prescription — should consider keeping at least a dose or two handy. 

But there are other dangers. Fentanyl can be used to lace other drugs like marijuana and cocaine without users’ knowledge. A child could find old medication in the medicine cabinet. It doesn’t matter how an overdose happens, the dangerous effects are the same. 

Studies have suggested that bystanders were present for more than a third of opioid-related overdoses. And because naloxone is now widely available, anyone who wants to can be prepared with lifesaving doses in their home, office, classroom, or anywhere, whether the risk of overdose is known or not. 

What are the side effects of naloxone? 

The CDC says naloxone, specifically the Narcan brand, is safe to administer to anyone from infants to seniors. 

Use of the medicine could result in a headache, some joint or muscle pain, discomfort in the nose, lightheadedness, or stomach pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. That’s obviously preferable to the potentially deadly effects an opioid overdose, which can slow or stop breathing to the point of brain damage or death. 

Because naloxone has no harmful effects on a sober person, it is important to use it if an overdose is at all suspected. If you’re wrong, the worst that happens is the harmless waste of a dose. If you’re right, you may just save a life. 

How to recognize an overdose 

Signs of an opioid overdose include: 

  • Small, constricted pinpoint pupils. 
  • Falling asleep or losing consciousness. 
  • Slow, weak, or no breathing. 
  • Choking or gurgling sounds. 
  • Limp body. 
  • Cold, clammy skin. 
  • Discoloration especially in lips and nails. 

Fentanyl overdoses may also include: 

  • Confusion before becoming unresponsive. 
  • Slowed heart rate. 
  • Foaming at the mouth. 
  • Body stiffening or seizure-like activity. 

Someone suffering cardiac arrest may exhibit many of these same symptoms but will also have no pulse. If that’s the case, CPR is required. 

How to use naloxone 

Naloxone can be administered as a nasal spray or as an injection. The trick is that no one who is overdosing can use it on themselves — someone else needs to administer that lifesaving dose. 

That’s why it’s important for anyone who carries naloxone, whether they are a user of opioids or know someone who does, to know what kind they have and how to use it, just in case it is ever needed. 

And if a dose ever is necessary, don’t forget to call 911! Naloxone is not a cure, but it will help keep someone alive until they can get professional medical aid. 

Here are instructions for two ways to use naloxone, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

  • Nasal spray. Lay the patient on their back and support their neck, letting their head tip back. Put the tip of the nozzle in one nostril and press the plunger firmly to administer the dose. Move the patient to their side and keep an eye on them in case more doses are necessary before emergency responders arrive. 

DO NOT test the nasal spray as there is only one single dose, and it cannot be reused. 

  • Injection. Apply the injection to the outer thigh. The injector can pierce clothing, if necessary. Like above, roll the patient on their side and watch for signs that more doses are needed. 

Naloxone cost and availability 

Brand-name Narcan is available over the counter at most major pharmacies. No prescription is necessary. It retails for around $44, though some advocates fear that could put it out of reach for some who need it. 

In Pennsylvania, there is a standing order that can be brought directly to any pharmacy to help obtain naloxone. CMP can provide naloxone through the online form at 


Have questions about naloxone, opioids, addiction, or anything else related to drugs and alcohol? Come see CMP. 

  • Saturday, April 27. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Lehighton Area School District Health, Wellness and Safety Fair at Lehighton Elementary Center. 
  • Tuesday, April 30. 6-8 p.m. Monroe County Community Night at NCCC Monroe Campus’s Pocono Hall in Tannersville. 
  • Saturday, May 4. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Carbon County Safety Day at Mauch Chunk Lake in Jim Thorpe. 
Fight Fentanyl

Fentanyl Poisoning Stops Here.

Carbon, Monroe & Pike County © 2023. All Rights Reserved. Made in the wild by Kudu.