What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is a medicine which can temporarily reverse the effects of an overdose caused by opiates and opioids such as heroin, methadone, morphine, codeine or buprenorphine.
The main life-threatening effect of opiates is to slow down and stop breathing. Naloxone blocks this effect thereby reversing the breathing difficulties. Naloxone begins working within a few minutes, however, it only works for a short period of time – around 20-40 minutes. After that the person will go into a state of overdose again and so it is important to top up the effects of the drug and of course to call for emergency help straight away.
Forms of Naloxone
Naloxone may come as pre-filled syringe for injection (Prenoxad) or as a nasal spray (Nyxoid) – see below.
How to obtain Naloxone
Public Health England guidelines on the distribution of Naloxone were updated in February 2019. The regulations state that anyone involved in delivering drug treatment services can now carry naloxone and make it available to others without a prescription. For example, a worker in a drug treatment service could supply naloxone to a family member or friend of a person using heroin. Naloxone kits are also available at needle exchanges and many community pharmacies.
This video from the EMCDDA explains the reasons why increased naloxone availability is important and how the drug is being used throughout Europe.
How to administer Naloxone
Naloxone kits should have guidance on how to use them included in the pack but if not, you can find instructions for administering the injecting kits here, and the nasal spray here, courtesy of naloxone.org.uk
Based on the survey responses of 285 people who have provided emergency help. This included support workers, healthcare professionals, emergency services workers, family members, and members of the public | SDF, UK
Take-Home Naloxone and the Prevention of Deaths from Heroin Overdose: Pursuing Strong Science, Fuller Understanding, Greater Impact (Dec 2021)
This article explores 5 areas: firstly, the need for strong science; secondly, our improved understanding of opioid overdose and deaths; thirdly, the search for greater impact from our policies and interventions; fourthly, developing better forms of naloxone; and fifthly, examining the challenges still to be addressed | European Addiction Research, UK
Finding a Needle in a Haystack: Take-Home Naloxone in England 2017/18 (2020)
This report updates Release’s previous reporting on ‘Take-home Naloxone in England: 2016/17’ and presents novel findings on take-home naloxone provision in custodial settings, such as in prisons, across England for the period 2017/18 | Release, UK
Guidance: Widening the availability of naloxone (2019)
Naloxone is the emergency antidote for overdoses caused by heroin and other opiates/opioids (such as methadone and morphine) | DoH et al, UK
Take-home naloxone for opioid overdose in people who use drugs (PDF) (2017)
Advice for local authorities and local partners on widening the availability of naloxone to reduce overdose deaths from heroin and other opiate drugs | PHE, UK
See also the website of the Naloxone Acton Group for more information on this life saving drug.
Updated January 2022