Narcan® (naloxone hydrochloride) is a prescription opioid antidote that is given when high amounts of opioid medications have been used. It can also be used to increase blood pressure in people who have septic shock. The drug is injected into a vein, muscle, or under the skin, and is approved for use in adults, children, and infants.
Any opioid medication can cause dangerous side effects, including potentially life-threatening complications like slowed and shallow breathing (known as respiratory depression). Narcan is used to reverse respiratory depression and other serious effects that may occur when high doses of opioid medications are used.
Narcan works by competing with opioids for opioid receptors. It produces no effects when it binds to opioid receptors. However, Narcan does prevent other opioid medicines from also binding to the receptors, thus blocking the actions of these other drugs.
(Click Narcan Uses for a complete overview of this opioid antidote. This article also discusses how Narcan works and whether it has unapproved uses.)
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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