5 Fast Facts About Narcan (Naloxone), the Drug That Saved Demi Lovato’s Life

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Demi Lovato overdosed, and received Narcan, the life-saving overdose antidote.

Here are 5 fast facts about Narcan:

1) Narcan is a brand of naloxone (the other major brand is Evzio).

Naloxone is a drug that, when administered during a suspected opioid overdose, can rapidly reverse a potentially fatal overdose of heroin or pain pills. The name brand Narcan is naloxone as a nasal spray, whereas Evzio is naloxone as an auto-injection (similar to an EpiPen). Both contain the same active ingredient, naloxone.

Read common myths about Narcan.

2) Naloxone is an opioid antagonist.

It dislodges opioid molecules from the brain’s receptors and blocks them from binding again. This effect can quickly restore a person’s breathing to normal if that person’s breathing has slowed down or stopped because of an opioid overdose. Naloxone WILL NOT improve breathing in people who have overdosed on other substances (such as alcohol) or for other reasons (such as asthma).

3) Naloxone IS NOT addiction treatment.

It is a life-saver in opioid overdose emergencies, however, naloxone cannot treat the underlying problem that caused the overdose: addiction to opioids. Instead, a combination of counseling and medications such as methadone, Suboxone or Vivitrol is your best bet for recovery. Although overdose is life-threatening, it can be a pivotal opportunity for recovery.

What should you do after overdose to prepare for recovery?

4). Call 911 after giving Narcan to avoid re-overdose.

Think of naloxone like CPR for a heart attack, both are vital for keeping a person alive by buying time for emergency medical services to arrive. If you administer naloxone, you must also call 911. Naloxone’s effects last for 30-90 minutes whereas the effects of certain opioids can four or more hours. Therefore, a person could actually re-overdose after naloxone wears off because the opioid is still in their system.

5). You can get Narcan/naloxone at many pharmacies without a prescription.

If you live in Michigan and you or someone you love is at risk for opioid overdose, you can get naloxone without a prescription from these pharmacies. You can also get Narcan (the nasal spray) without a prescription at most CVS (41 states), Walgreen’s (45 states) and Kroger pharmacies (37 states). For those without health insurance, Narcan costs 95 dollars at CVS and about 130 dollars elsewhere. You can also get injectable naloxone for about $40 and purchase a nasal adapter (~$10) to turn the syringe into a nasal spray.


Ali Safawi is a Workit Associate and former Intern. He is an alumni of the University of Michigan School of Public Health and is pursuing his masters degree at George Washington University in our nation’s capitol. He is passionate about fighting the opioid epidemic and creating a more equitable health system for all Americans.

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