Naloxone: Get the Facts You Need to Know

Learn how you can access naloxone to aid in an opioid overdose, and where you can receive training to administer it to someone in need.

With the opioid epidemic happening across Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S., it’s more important than ever that emergency personnel as well as ordinary people have access to the overdose-reversal medication naloxone.

In April, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams released the first public health advisory in more than a decade, encouraging people other than medical and emergency professionals to carry the lifesaving medication.

According to the surgeon general, access to naloxone and knowledge of how to administer it can save a life.

What is naloxone, and how does it work?

Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of an overdose caused by prescription pain medications, heroin, and other opioid drugs.

When naloxone is given to someone who is experiencing an overdose, the drug “blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing within two to eight minutes,” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

There are many types of naloxone, but the two most common are:

  • Intranasal, a nasal spray
  • An auto-injector, which is a set dosage amount, similar to an EpiPen

The nasal spray does not require as much specialized training to administer, unlike the auto-injector. However, you are encouraged to learn how to administer naloxone before you need to use it.

How do I obtain a prescription for naloxone?

Pennsylvania’s public health officials have made it easier for family and friends of people who are battling opioid addiction to retrieve naloxone, thanks to Act 139 of 2014.

Act 139 grants family members and friends the ability to obtain naloxone through Pennsylvania’s “standing order” prescription, which is a prescription written for the public instead of one person. It is provided by state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. The prescription can be used at nearly any pharmacy, and it can be paid for out of pocket or through insurance.

If you are interested in obtaining a naloxone prescription through the standing order, check with your insurance plan and local pharmacy. Not all pharmacies carry both common types of naloxone. Insurance companies also differ in regard to coverage for opioid addiction-related medication.

The Department of Health recommends you receive proper training to learn to administer naloxone.

Act 139’s “Good Samaritan” provision also allows friends, family members, and bystanders protection to call 911 to report an overdose without fear of repercussions.