Naloxone is a medicine used to treat opioid overdose. If taken soon enough after an opioid overdose, it can save your life.
In Aotearoa New Zealand naloxone is available as an emergency kit or take-home kit which can come as an injection or a nose spray. These emergency kits are easy to use so that naloxone can administered by minimally trained laypeople (non medical) in an emergency.
On this page, you can find the following information:
- What is naloxone?
- When to use naloxone for an opioid overdose?
- How do I use naloxone for an opioid overdose?
- Do I still need to call the paramedics if naloxone has worked?
- Where can I get an emergency naloxone kit from?
- Can naloxone harm someone?
- Is naloxone just a safety net that allows users to use even more?
Naloxone is a medicine used to treat opioid overdose. Opioids are strong pain medicines. Examples of opioids include codeine, morphine, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl, tramadol and heroin. Opioids slow your breathing and affect your consciousness – if you take too much or overdose on opioids, your breathing may stop and you could die. Read more about opioids and who is at risk of opioid overdose.
Naloxone works by reversing the effects of opioids. It can restore normal breathing to a person whose breathing has shallowed or stopped as a result of an opioid overdose. Naloxone can be given by injection or nasal spray and works very quickly, within 2–5 minutes.
|Opioid overdose is an emergency because it causes life-threatening problems such as slow or stopped breathing and unconsciousness.|
Naloxone is only used when a person shows signs of an opioid overdose. A person may have overdosed if they:
- are very sleepy or hard to wake up (passed out)
- have little or no breathing
- are snoring deeply or making gurgling sounds
- have blue lips or nails
- have tiny pupils.
Note: Naloxone is only effective against opioid overdose. It doesn't work for overdose of other medicines, illicit drugs or alcohol. But, in an emergency, if you are unsure of the exact cause of the overdose and suspect it could be opioids, it is safe to use naloxone. See below can naloxone harm someone?
|Here are some important things to remember when using naloxone|
An overdose is always an emergency. Even if naloxone has been administered, always call for help.
Naloxone is active in the body for only 20–90 minutes, but the effects of most opioids can last longer. This means that the effects of naloxone are likely to wear off before the opioids are gone from the body, which could cause breathing to stop again. Naloxone may need to be used again, depending on the amount, type or method of consumption of the opioids (eg, oral, injection).
Naloxone is only available on prescription so you need to see your doctor so they can assess your needs. You may want to consider taking a friend or a family member with you to see your doctor so they can support you and learn how to use the kit. You can choose to have a naloxone injection or the nasal spray.
The kit is not always free but some pharmacies can offer the kit at a low cost. If you are in Auckland, contact the Auckland Opioid Treatment Service (AOTS) for further information about participating pharmacies.
|If you are taking opioids, have a plan. Talk about overdose with people you trust before it happens. Ask your healthcare provider whether you need an emergency naloxone kit.|
Once you have the kit, always keep the naloxone in a place where family, friends, and close contacts can easily access it in an emergency. Let them know:
No. It is safe to give naloxone any time you suspect an opioid overdose. It will not hurt if you are wrong about it being an overdose. People who receive naloxone for an overdose may wake up and go into withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
- feeling nervous, restless or irritable
- body aches
- dizziness or weakness
- diarrhoea (runny poos), stomach pain or feeling a little sick
- fever, chills or goose bumps
- sneezing or runny nose
- fast heart beat
Talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions about withdrawal symptoms.
Some people who take opioids can very rarely have more serious side effects following naloxone such as seizures, pulmonary oedema, and ventricular arrhythmias if a large dose of naloxone is administered.
Research has found that having naloxone available does not encourage people to use opioids more. The goal is to prevent deaths from opioid overdose by distributing naloxone and educating people about how to prevent, recognise and intervene in overdose situations.
- Community Alcohol Drugs Support Auckland NZ
- NZ Drug Foundation NZ
- Alcohol Drug Helpline general freephone 0800 787 797, text 868, Māori, Pasifika, Youth helplines: contact details
- Help with alcohol and drug problems. Ministry of Health, NZ
- Nyxoid (naloxone nasal spray) Consumer information, NZ
- DBL Naloxone hydrochloride injection Consumer information, AUS
- Needle exchange services Drug Information Outreach, NZ
- Maximising opioid safety Monash University, AUS
- Risks of opioid medicines Medsafe, NZ
- Naloxone hydrochloride NZ Formulary, NZ
- Having naloxone on hand can save a life during an opioid overdose Food and Drug Administration, US, 2019
- Naloxone nasal spray (Nyxoid) for opioid overdose NPS, Australia, 2020
- Take-home naloxone in Australian hospitals SHPA, Australia, 2020