An opioid overdose occurs when someone takes more of an opioid than their body can handle, and their breathing slows until it stops. Naloxone is a prescription medicine that reverses opioid overdoses. It temporarily blocks the effect of opioids and helps a person to start breathing again.
Naloxone is also sold under the brand names Narcan and Kloxxado. Both are intranasal sprays, but Kloxxado has 8mg of naloxone and Narcan has 4mg. Narcan is the recommended brand because the dosage of Kloxxado is much higher than is necessary in most overdoses.
Naloxone quick facts
- Safe and easy to use.
- Only works for someone on opioids.
- Doesn’t hurt someone if they’re on another drug.
- Not addictive and cannot be used to get high.
- Takes 2–5 minutes to take effect.
- May require more than one dose.
- May cause withdrawal in people dependent on opioids (e.g., chills, nausea, vomiting, agitation, muscle aches).
- Stays in the body for 30–90 minutes.
Signs of an opioid overdose
- Slow, shallow, or no detectable breathing.
- Unresponsive or unconscious.
- Pale, blue, purple, or gray lips, face, and/or nail beds.
- Loud snoring or gurgling noise.
- Rigid arms and chest.
- Slow or no pulse.
Through the ‘Good Samaritan’ provision of Act 139, friends, loved ones, and bystanders are encouraged to call 911 for emergency medical services in the event an overdose is witnessed and to stay with the individual until help arrives. The law offers certain criminal and civil protections to the caller so that they cannot get in trouble for being present, witnessing, and reporting an overdose. Learn more about Act 139.
Although naloxone is a prescription medication, Pennsylvania – like many states – has passed laws making it available as a standing order. A standing order prescription allows pharmacists in Pennsylvania to dispense naloxone without requiring an individual prescription.
Anyone can access naloxone from their pharmacy by:
- Getting a prescription from their doctor; or
- Using the standing order written for the general public.
If you’re interested in learning more, see Pennsylvania’s Naloxone Standing Order (PDF).
Pharmacists can find more information about dispensing naloxone at the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association website.
Copay assistance can help you pay for your naloxone.
Prevention Point Philadelphia offers naloxone based on ability to pay.
Where and when
For people who use drugs and their families:
You can request that free naloxone be mailed discreetly to your home after taking a brief online training. This mailing services includes a fentanyl test strip add on. No insurance or conditions. Visit NEXT Distro.
For the general public:
Naloxone prescriptions should be available at all pharmacies. Although the medication may not be available for same day pickup, it can often be ordered and available within a day or two.
If a pharmacy does not have it in stock, request that it be ordered or ask if another location has it in stock. While many may have a copay for brand Narcan, other brands may be free. Learn more about copay assistance.
If the pharmacist declines your request:
- Ask if they’re familiar with Pennsylvania’s standing order prescription law.
- If they are unable to fill the request or are unfamiliar with the standing order, please go to another pharmacy.
- If the pharmacist was unwilling to fill the request, please report your experience by completing a Pharmacy Barriers to Naloxone Access form.
Over the counter
As of March 29th, 2023, naloxone nasal spray (Narcan) has been approved for sale over-the-counter. This decision will take some time to go into effect. Philadelphians trying to get naloxone at a pharmacy will still need to get the medication from the pharmacist, either with a prescription from a healthcare provider or under the Standing Order. Naloxone is still available for no cost at the Naloxone Tower in front of the Lucien E. Blackwell Library in West Philadelphia, by mail from NEXT Distro, and through community organizations. See below for more information on how to access naloxone in your community.
Use this map to find a pharmacy near you that carries naloxone:
While many insurance companies have a copay for brand Narcan, other brands may be free. If you are uninsured, Prevention Point Philadelphia offers naloxone based on ability to pay.
Attend a virtual training
You can stay at home and still help to prevent a fatal overdose in your community. Register online for a virtual training on overdose awareness and reversal.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about how to join the training.