If someone has overdosed on heroin, naloxone will block and reverse the life-threatening effects.
Naloxone is approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and is available as a nasal spray (Narcan) and injection (Evzio).
How Naloxone Treats Heroin Overdose
When a person overdoses on heroin, they can experience severe depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system.
Naloxone works to counteract these life-threatening symptoms, restoring normal breathing by opening up the airways.
It does this by acting as an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks opioid receptors from being activated.
These receptors are located in the brain, brain stem, gastrointestinal tract, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves.
This process forces all other opioids off those receptors, which is why the effects of heroin stop.
How To Use Narcan In Case Of Heroin Overdose
Narcan is the nasal spray version of naloxone.
To administer Narcan, follow these steps:
- Place the tip of the nozzle in either nostril and hold until your fingers touch the bottom of the person’s nose.
- Press the red plunger. This will release the dose of medicine into the person’s nose.
- If after two to three minutes breathing does not return to normal, or if breathing difficulty comes back, give a second dose with a new device in the other nostril.
Even if you are not completely sure what substances the person has overdosed on, if you suspect heroin is involved, go ahead and administer Narcan.
Naloxone has no known adverse effects in cases of non-opioid overdoses.
How To Use Evzio In Case Of Heroin Overdose
Evzio an auto-injector version of naloxone.
To administer Evzio, follow these steps:
- Pull the naloxone auto-injector from the outer case.
- Pull off the red safety guard. Do not touch the black base of the auto-injector — this is where the needle comes out.
- Place the black end of the auto-injector against the outer thigh. This can be over top of clothing if needed.
- Press firmly and hold for five seconds.
- If symptoms return, you may use a new auto-injector every two to three minutes until emergency services arrive.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and should not be used in placement of seeking emergency medical services in the case of a heroin overdose.
How Long Does Naloxone Last In The Body?
The life-saving effects of naloxone will last for 30 to 90 minutes. All the while, heroin is still present in the body.
After the naloxone wears off, the opioids will return to their receptors and the harmful effects of heroin will resume.
This is why it’s extremely important to seek medical attention immediately in the case of an overdose. Naloxone is effective as an emergency measure but should be followed up right away.
Naloxone will only temporarily restore the drive to breathe. In the event of an overdose, call 911 immediately and get proper medical help.
Who Has Access To Naloxone?
Naloxone is accessible to anyone who might need it. Those who abuse heroin, their friends and family members, and anyone else who may need it can obtain naloxone.
There were skeptics in the initial rollout of naloxone products who worried that giving the public access to the overdose-reversing drug may only encourage the use of dangerous opioids.
But the life-saving capabilities of naloxone overrode any fear of an increase in opioid usage, such as heroin.
Can Naloxone Be Addictive?
Naloxone is a non-addictive drug that does not produce a high. It’s a non-scheduled drug, meaning it has no potential for abuse.
It only works if a person has opioids in their system, otherwise, it has no effect whatsoever.
Get Treatment For Heroin Overdose And Addiction
You’re not alone in your struggle with heroin, or your experience in helping a loved one with an addiction.
When you call our helpline, you’ll be connected with someone who understands addiction and can help to point you in the right direction for recovery.
Call our helpline to learn more about heroin addiction treatment options.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Reverse Overdose to Prevent Death
- Naloxone Auto-injector — How to use naloxone auto-injector
- NARCAN ® Nasal Spray — How to Use NARCAN ® Nasal Spray
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — How Naloxone Saves Lives in Opioid Overdose