The Lifesaving Opioid Overdose Reversal Medication

Questions about Narcan / Naloxone

Updated 5/9/22

Narcan package and spray

Naloxone is a life-saving medication that reverses an opioid overdose while having little to no effect on an individual if opioids are not present in their system. Naloxone works by blocking the opioid receptor sites, reversing the toxic effects of the overdose. Naloxone is a prescription medication but in California it is also available without a physician’s prescription through pharmacies, local public health department programs and other community agencies. The medication can be given by intranasal [nose] spray, intramuscular (into the muscle), subcutaneous (under the skin), or by intravenous injection. [Source: DHCS FAQ]

For the public, we distribute a nasal spray version on Naloxone called Narcan (2 bottles per kit). Emergency care providers and other health care professionals in Marin county often use intramuscular naloxone.

There are instructions on the box of Narcan. Each box also includes a link and QR code for how to access a training video (English and Spanish) and additional local resources. OD Free Marin and partners can also provide staff and community training.

Please don’t. You never know when you may need to give both doses, so it is important to keep the two nasal sprays together in the box.

Please check the expiration date on your kit (usually 3 years) and contact your provider for a replacement if your Narcan expires (do not throw out expired Narcan since it still works for up to 30 years!). Also, make sure you store your kit in a cool, shady place. It shouldn’t be subjected to heat over 104 degrees Fahrenheit so keep it in a cooler/insulated bag if carrying it in your car.

The overdosing individual will wake up from a state similar to deep-sleep, so you can expect to be groggy, surprised and even upset at just what happened to them. Speak simply, reassure them that paramedics are arriving soon, and let them know you’ve given them Narcan because they overdosed. Stay calm and keep bystanders at a distance.

Narcan lasts 30-90 minutes. By then, paramedics should have taken over but if not, administer Narcan again.

Narcan carries no risk of getting someone high.

Narcan is available without a prescription at many pharmacies (call yours first) and often covered by insurance.

There are vending machines in San Rafael where you can access free Narcan:

The Marin County Jail Lobby – 13 Peter Behr Drive / 8:00am – 11:00pm
Marin HHS Social Services Courtyard – 120 North Redwood Drive / 24/7 outdoor access

The Spahr Center in Corte Madera distributes free Narcan during drop-in hours.

Narcan only works on opioid overdoses. It will have no effect if the health complication is not due to an opioid (e.g., heart attack, stroke, seizure, or overdose caused by barbiturates or methamphetamines ). Call 911 immediately for any serious medical crises, including overdoses.

If the individual is not breathing after you administer naloxone, pinch the nose, tilt the head back and give mouth-to-mouth breaths every five seconds. Chest compressions are also an effective way to restore or maintain the victim’s breathing. You may contact the American Red Cross or your local fire station to learn CPR or renew your certification.

Call 911 immediately!  All you have to say is “Someone is not responsive and not breathing.”  The individual may fall back into an overdose so medical attention is needed.

The Good Samaritan Law (H&S Code § 11376.5) protects you from arrest, charge, and prosecution for being under the influence or possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia if you make a good faith attempt to obtain medical care for someone experiencing a drug-related overdose.  For this protection to apply, you cannot obstruct medical or law enforcement workers.  This law does not protect you if you are on parole, selling drugs, or forcing people to take drugs against their will.

Yes, please view this 12-minute training by Luis Dominguez, who recently served as our naloxone outreach coordinator.

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