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What is Naloxone? An Overview of a Life-Saving Overdose Reversal Drug


Opioids are a class of drugs that can be plant based (like opium) or synthetic (such as heroin, OxyContin, morphine, fentanyl, and many others). These substances are highly addictive, and in recent years, overdoses have become prevalent.

Amid the current climate of the opioid crisis in the US, there is hope—naloxone is a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. What is naloxone, how does it work, and why is it important? Read on for more information!

What is Naloxone?

Naloxoneis the name of the drug that reverses opioid overdoses. Naloxone is available as a generic or under the familiar brand name Narcan.

Naloxone acts fast, often restoring normal breathing within two to three minutes(one of the dangerous effects of an opioid overdose isthe extreme slowing of the central nervous system).

Naloxoneis available in a special kit called a ONEbox™. These kitsare now available in many public spaces in Oneonta through a program called the Oneonta Narcan Initiative.

What Types of Drug Overdoses Does Naloxone Work For?

Amazingly, naloxone can work on a number of opioid drugs. These include:

  • codeine,
  • heroin,
  • fentanyl,
  • morphine,
  • Oxycodone,
  • OxyContin,
  • Percocet,
  • Vicodin,
  • and other prescription opioid medications.

According to information from Boston University, naloxone works by “blocking the brain’s opioid receptors and displacing any active opioids,” which helps the body resist the central nervous system slowdown that we know as an overdose (Bouranova 2023).

A person may need more than one dose, depending on the type and quantity of opioids they’ve taken. Naloxone isn’t addictive or harmful, although it can cause withdrawal symptoms for someone who’s dependent on opioids.

How Do You Use Naloxonein an Emergency Situation?

Naloxone comes in both an injectable form and a nasal spray.

The great thing about ONEbox™ kits is that each kitincludes four doses of intranasal naloxone and instructional materials (with a short video)on how to administer naloxone (Youngs 2024).

“Intranasal” means the naloxone comes as a nasal spray, which can be administered easily, even to someone who is unresponsive.

For a preview of how the ONEbox™ kits work, check out the video on the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute, Inc.’s website. With these kits, the goal is to make this treatment easier and more accessible to the public.

Here’s an important detail from LEAF executive director Julie Dostal: “Anybody who’s ever revived through Narcan/Naloxone should go to the hospital immediately because the effects of Narcan and Naloxone are not permanent, and if the drug remains in the system, and overdose can begin to happen again after the Naloxone wears off” (Tupaj 2024).

The bottom line: Narcan is a first line of defense, but not the only treatment that should be used for someone who’s experienced an overdose.

Where Can You Get Naloxone?

Naloxone is sold in many pharmacies. Some insurances may cover it.

For those local to the Oneonta area, Friends of Recovery of Delaware and Otsego (FORDO) also has a Narcan vending machine at 22 Elm Street, Oneonta, NY 13820.

Contact us at LEAF if you’re interested in a ONEbox™ kit LEAF staff are working closely with the Oneonta Narcan Initiative team to make these boxes available for our local community.


Bouranova, Alene. 2023. “Everything You Need to Know about Narcan.”Boston University, October 26, 2023.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. n.d. “Frequently Asked Questions about Naloxone.” Accessed February 1, 2024.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. n.d. “Lifesaving Naloxone.” Accessed February 1, 2024.

Croce, Jill. 2022. “Otsego County Has the First Narcan Vending Machine in New York.”Https://Www.Wbng.Com, July 27, 2022.

“ONEBox.” n.d. West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute, Inc. Accessed February 1, 2024.

Tupaj, Kirk. 2024. “Oneonta Addresses Opioid Overdoses with New Initiative.”WKTV, January 19, 2024.

Youngs, Darla M. 2024. “Local Group Launches Life-Saving Program to Address Growing Opioid Overdose Crisis.”Hometown Oneonta & the Otsego-Delaware Dispatch, January 25, 2024.

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