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When Is Narcan Given?

People who have been using opioids may receive an antidote called Narcan® (naloxone hydrochloride). But when is this drug given?
Specifically, Narcan is approved to block the actions of opioid narcotic medications, and is approved to:
  • Reverse the effects of opioids
  • Diagnose a suspected opioid overdose
  • Increase blood pressure in people with septic shock. 
By blocking opioid receptors, Narcan competes with opioids for the receptors, which helps to prevent their effects.
There are also some off-label (unapproved) uses for Narcan, such as to treat itching and constipation caused by opioids. Narcan may also be given off-label as a nasal spray to treat an opioid overdose.
(Click Narcan Uses for a more in-depth look at when Narcan is given, including information on how it works and whether children can take it.)
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