Does Naloxone Get You High? Unveiling the Truth About Naloxone’s Effects12 min read

Naloxone, a life-saving medication, has garnered attention for its role in reversing opioid overdoses. However, there have been misconceptions about naloxone causing a euphoric high or being misused for recreational purposes. In this article, we will explore the truth behind naloxone’s effects and its crucial role in preventing opioid-related fatalities.

  • Understanding Naloxone’s Purpose: Learn about the primary function of naloxone and how it plays a critical role in emergency situations.
  • Mechanism of Action: Discover how naloxone interacts with opioid receptors to counteract the effects of opioids.
  • Physical Effects of Naloxone: Explore the common side effects that may occur after naloxone administration.
  • Administration Methods: Get insights into the different ways naloxone can be administered, including injectable and nasal spray forms.
  • Importance in Overdose Prevention: Understand why naloxone is a crucial tool in combating the opioid crisis and saving lives.
  • Addressing Concerns and Stigma: Delve into the challenges surrounding naloxone use and how to combat stigma effectively.

Naloxone’s Purpose and Life-Saving Potential

Naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan, is an opioid antagonist used to reverse the life-threatening effects of opioid overdoses. When a person overdoses on opioids, their breathing can become dangerously slow or stop altogether, leading to a life-threatening situation. Naloxone works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, displacing the opioids and temporarily blocking their effects. This rapid action can restore normal breathing and consciousness, giving crucial time for emergency medical assistance to be sought. It is essential to recognize that naloxone is not a treatment for opioid addiction but a vital tool for overdose response.

Mechanism of Action: How Naloxone Reverses Opioid Effects

Naloxone’s mechanism of action involves competitive antagonism at opioid receptors. Unlike opioids, which activate these receptors and induce analgesia and euphoria, naloxone does not produce any opioid-like effects. Instead, it quickly binds to the receptors, preventing opioids from attaching and exerting their effects. This competitive displacement rapidly reverses respiratory depression and other central nervous system effects caused by opioid overdose.

Physical Effects of Naloxone

After naloxone administration, the individual may experience various physical effects. These effects are generally short-lived and are a result of the body’s response to the reversal of opioid effects. Common side effects may include:

  • Increased Heart Rate: Naloxone can cause a temporary increase in heart rate as the body readjusts to the sudden reversal of opioid-induced depression.
  • Agitation and Irritability: Some individuals may become agitated or irritable after naloxone administration, although this is typically a minor and transient effect.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Naloxone can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, including nausea and vomiting, as the body responds to the opioid reversal.

These side effects are generally well-tolerated and pose minimal risk compared to the life-threatening consequences of untreated opioid overdose.

Administration Methods: Injectable vs. Nasal Spray

Naloxone is available in two primary forms for emergency use: injectable and nasal spray. Injectable naloxone is typically administered by healthcare professionals and first responders through intramuscular or intravenous routes. On the other hand, nasal spray naloxone is designed for easy use by laypersons, such as family members or bystanders, who may be present during an overdose. The nasal spray formulation allows for straightforward administration into the nose, making it a valuable tool in community-based overdose prevention programs.

Addressing Concerns and Stigma

Naloxone’s widespread availability and use have been met with some concerns and stigma. Critics argue that making naloxone readily available may encourage risky drug use or enable individuals struggling with addiction. However, it is essential to recognize that naloxone is a life-saving tool that does not promote drug use. Instead, it provides a critical opportunity for individuals to survive an overdose and access treatment options. Combating stigma is crucial in ensuring that naloxone remains accessible and that individuals who may witness an overdose feel empowered to take action.

Education on Naloxone’s Purpose

To address concerns and misconceptions about naloxone, comprehensive education is necessary. Public health campaigns and community outreach programs should emphasize that naloxone’s primary purpose is to save lives during opioid emergencies. By providing accurate information about naloxone’s mechanism of action and limitations, we can foster a better understanding of its role in overdose prevention.

Reducing Stigmatization of Naloxone Users

Individuals who use naloxone or receive it during an overdose response may face judgment or stigma from others. It is crucial to combat such stigmatization and provide support for those seeking help for opioid use disorder. Through empathy and compassion, we can create an environment where individuals feel comfortable seeking treatment and assistance without fear of judgment.

Overcoming negative perceptions of naloxone use

  • Highlighting Success Stories: Sharing stories of individuals whose lives were saved by naloxone can help dispel negative perceptions and showcase its life-saving potential.
  • Empowering Communities: Engaging communities in overdose prevention initiatives and naloxone training can create a sense of ownership and responsibility for public health.
  • Partnering with Healthcare Providers: Collaborating with healthcare professionals can enhance naloxone education and destigmatize its use as part of a comprehensive harm reduction strategy.

Supporting individuals in their recovery journey

  • Connecting to Treatment Resources: Ensuring that individuals who experience an overdose have access to information and resources for addiction treatment and support.
  • Harm Reduction Approach: Emphasizing harm reduction strategies can help individuals reduce the risk of overdose while they navigate their recovery.
  • Offering Non-Judgmental Support: Creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment can encourage individuals to seek help and maintain their journey to recovery.

Misuse and Abuse of Naloxone

Misuse and abuse of naloxone have been subjects of concern in some contexts. Instances have been reported where naloxone was used in non-opioid-related situations, potentially diverting attention from its primary purpose. Additionally, debates have arisen regarding take-home naloxone kits and whether they might inadvertently enable risky drug use. It is crucial to acknowledge these concerns while recognizing the overall life-saving impact naloxone has in preventing opioid-related fatalities.

Instances of Naloxone Misuse

Some instances of naloxone misuse involve its administration in situations where opioids are not involved, such as in cases of non-opioid intoxication or unintentional administration. While these occurrences are relatively rare, they highlight the importance of proper education and training for those who may administer naloxone.

Impact on Public Health Efforts

Debates have arisen over whether naloxone distribution might contribute to an increase in risky opioid use. However, research indicates that naloxone access does not lead to higher rates of opioid use but instead serves as a crucial harm reduction tool. It allows individuals to survive an overdose and offers an opportunity to connect with treatment and support services.

Using naloxone to reverse non-opioid intoxication

  • Training and Education: Ensuring that naloxone administrators receive proper training to identify opioid-related overdoses and respond appropriately.
  • Multi-Faceted Approach: Recognizing that naloxone is just one aspect of a comprehensive public health approach to address drug use and addiction.
  • Data and Evaluation: Collecting data on naloxone administration and its outcomes can provide valuable insights into its appropriate use and impact.

Controversy surrounding take-home naloxone kits

  • Access vs. Risk: Balancing the need for broad naloxone access with concerns about potential misuse requires ongoing evaluation and adaptation of distribution programs.
  • Supplementing with Education: Providing educational materials with take-home naloxone kits can help recipients understand naloxone’s proper use and purpose.
  • Engaging the Community: Involving the community in naloxone distribution initiatives can foster a sense of collective responsibility for overdose prevention.

Why Naloxone Doesn’t Cause a High

One common misconception about naloxone is whether it can induce a euphoric high similar to opioids. It is essential to understand that naloxone’s pharmacological properties prevent it from producing any opioid-like effects. Naloxone is specifically designed as an antagonist, meaning it only blocks the activation of opioid receptors without activating them. As a result, naloxone lacks the ability to produce the rewarding and euphoric sensations associated with opioids.

Chemical Properties and Mechanism of Action

Naloxone’s chemical structure plays a crucial role in its non-addictive properties. Unlike opioids, which can cross the blood-brain barrier and directly interact with receptors in the brain’s reward system, naloxone has limited ability to penetrate the central nervous system. Therefore, it primarily acts peripherally to reverse opioid effects in the body while sparing the brain from direct interaction.

Limited Interaction with the Brain’s Reward System

Opioids act on specific regions of the brain associated with pleasure and reward, leading to the euphoria that can reinforce drug-seeking behavior. Naloxone, in contrast, does not engage these reward pathways. Its rapid binding to opioid receptors prevents opioids from reaching these brain regions, effectively blocking their ability to produce a high.

Binding specificity to opioid receptors

  • Competitive Binding: Naloxone competes with opioids for binding to opioid receptors, effectively displacing the opioids and reversing their effects.
  • Short Duration of Action: Naloxone’s effects are relatively short-lived compared to opioids, further reducing the potential for any prolonged euphoric sensations.
  • Immediate Onset of Action: Naloxone rapidly takes effect upon administration, which is essential during opioid overdose emergencies.

Focus on neutralizing opioid effects

  • Emergency Response: Naloxone is intended for emergency use to counteract the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose rather than inducing a high.
  • No Potential for Abuse: Due to its non-addictive properties and lack of rewarding effects, naloxone does not hold any appeal for recreational use.
  • Safe for General Use: Naloxone’s safety profile allows for widespread distribution to both trained medical personnel and laypersons.

Importance of Naloxone in Overdose Prevention

Naloxone plays a crucial role in overdose prevention efforts, especially in the context of the opioid epidemic. As opioid-related fatalities continue to rise, having naloxone readily available can be the difference between life and death for individuals experiencing an overdose. The rapid action of naloxone in reversing opioid effects allows for timely intervention, giving emergency medical responders a better chance to save lives. Moreover, naloxone distribution programs and community training initiatives have proven effective in reducing overdose deaths and empowering individuals to take action during an overdose emergency.

Naloxone as a Life-Saving Medication

Naloxone’s status as a life-saving medication cannot be overstated. In many instances, opioid overdoses can be fatal within minutes, making naloxone’s quick onset of action vital in preventing tragic outcomes. By equipping both first responders and laypersons with naloxone, communities can act swiftly to address overdoses before medical professionals arrive on the scene.

Availability and Accessibility

Efforts to increase naloxone accessibility have been a focal point in public health strategies. Naloxone is now available without a prescription in many regions, making it more accessible to individuals at risk of witnessing or experiencing an overdose. Take-home naloxone kits and distribution programs have been implemented to reach the broader community, including friends and family members of individuals struggling with opioid use. These initiatives aim to remove barriers to naloxone access and empower individuals to take an active role in overdose prevention.

Expanding access to naloxone kits

  • Pharmacies and Community Centers: Making naloxone available at pharmacies and community centers can increase its accessibility for those who may be at risk of an opioid overdose.
  • Training for Laypersons: Providing proper training on naloxone administration to laypersons ensures they are equipped to use it effectively during emergencies.
  • Integration into Public Health Programs: Incorporating naloxone distribution into existing public health programs can facilitate its widespread availability.

Empowering communities through naloxone access

  • Peer Support Networks: Building peer support networks can encourage naloxone training and distribution among individuals who use opioids or are in recovery.
  • Community Education: Raising awareness about naloxone’s importance and providing information on how to access it can empower communities to take action.
  • Measuring Impact: Continuously evaluating the impact of naloxone distribution programs allows for adjustments and improvements in overdose prevention efforts.


In conclusion, naloxone is a critical tool in combating opioid overdose deaths and has saved countless lives since its introduction. It is essential to dispel misconceptions about naloxone causing a high, as its pharmacological properties prevent any opioid-like effects. Instead, naloxone’s primary purpose is to rapidly reverse opioid overdoses and provide a window of opportunity for emergency medical assistance. By addressing concerns and stigma, providing education, and increasing accessibility, naloxone can continue to be a potent weapon in the fight against the opioid crisis.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can Naloxone Get You High?

Answer: No, naloxone does not produce a high. It is an opioid antagonist designed to block the effects of opioids in the body without activating the brain’s reward system. Its primary purpose is to reverse opioid overdose and save lives.

2. Is Naloxone Addictive?

Answer: No, naloxone is not addictive. As an opioid antagonist, it lacks the rewarding and euphoric effects associated with opioids. It does not induce any pleasurable sensations or lead to dependence.

3. How Quickly Does Naloxone Work?

Answer: Naloxone works rapidly, typically taking effect within minutes after administration. Its quick onset of action is critical in emergency situations where immediate reversal of opioid overdose is needed.

4. Can Anyone Administer Naloxone?

Answer: Yes, in many regions, naloxone is available without a prescription and can be administered by trained medical personnel as well as laypersons. Proper training and education on naloxone administration are essential for those who may be in a position to respond to an overdose.

5. What Are the Side Effects of Naloxone?

Answer: The most common side effects of naloxone include increased heart rate, agitation, irritability, and nausea. These effects are generally short-lived and pose minimal risk compared to the potential consequences of an opioid overdose.

6. Can Naloxone Be Given to Someone Who Is Not Overdosing?

Answer: Naloxone is specifically intended for use during opioid overdoses and should not be given to individuals who are not experiencing opioid-related effects. It is essential to recognize the signs of opioid overdose and respond appropriately.

7. Is Naloxone Safe to Use on Children or Pregnant Women?

Answer: Naloxone is generally considered safe for use on children and pregnant women during opioid overdose emergencies. The potential benefits of reversing an overdose far outweigh the risks of naloxone administration.

8. How Long Does the Effects of Naloxone Last?

Answer: The effects of naloxone are relatively short-lived compared to opioids. After naloxone administration, its effects typically last for about 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the dose and the individual’s response.

9. Can Naloxone Be Used to Treat Opioid Addiction?

Answer: While naloxone is not a treatment for opioid addiction, it is a crucial component of harm reduction strategies and emergency response to overdoses. Medications like buprenorphine and metha are used for opioid addiction treatment.

10. Is Naloxone Legal to Carry and Use?

Answer: In many regions, naloxone is legal to carry and use for emergency overdose response. Laws and regulations regarding naloxone availability and administration may vary, so it is essential to be aware of local guidelines and training requirements.