Is naloxone an addictive drug?
Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Feb 2, 2021.
No, naloxone is not addictive. Naloxone is not an opioid and cannot be abused, unlike other medications that are used to treat an opioid use disorder. Naloxone is a short-acting drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse the effects of opioids quickly.
Unlike controlled substances that have the potential for addiction, naloxone nasal spray is available without a prescription at all major pharmacy chains.
The brand names of naloxone are:
Opioid drugs like heroin, morphine and oxycodone can be deadly because they can depress the ability to breathe. This effect may be even more dangerous if opioid drugs are combined with other drugs or alcohol.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist. This means the medication binds to opioid receptors in the brain, which blocks the effects of opioid drugs and reverses respiratory depression.
The effects of naloxone are rapid and short. Taking naloxone can cause symptoms similar to opioid withdrawal. Symptoms can include:
These symptoms are not actually caused by naloxone. They can result when the effects of opioids are blocked.
Naloxone may be prescribed to anyone who is at high risk of an opioid overdose, as well as to their family members (or to other people who live in the same household). It can be given as either an intranasal spray or by injection. A person may also self-administer naloxone with an autoinjector if they have taken an opioid and have difficulty breathing or staying awake.
A family member or emergency responder may administer naloxone if a person:
- Is unresponsive
- Has shallow and irregular breathing
- Has pinpoint pupils
- Has blue nose or lips
Naloxone should be used any time an overdose is suspected. It can be a life-saving drug, and it is safe for both children and pregnant women.
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA recommends health care professionals discuss naloxone with all patients when prescribing opioid pain relievers or medicines to treat opioid use disorder. July 23, 2020. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-recommends-health-care-professionals-discuss-naloxone-all-patients-when-prescribing-opioid-pain. [Accessed January 14, 2021].
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Naloxone. August 19, 2020. Available at: https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/naloxone. [Accessed January 11, 2021].
- Narcan.com. How to get Narcan. Available at: https://www.narcan.com/patients/how-to-get-narcan. [Accessed January 20, 2021].
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