top of page
Vondechii's Vault
  • Wandeth Van Grover, MPH


International Overdose Awareness Day is observed on August 31st and is designed to raise awareness of drug addiction in the US. From 2001 to 2014, 250,000 Americans have died from prescription overdose. During that same time, 135,000 people died from illicit drug use (including cocaine and heroin). The rate of people who have died annually from overdoses have increased exponentially according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. There is a bias in regards to who battling addiction such as the often associated image of an African American man. There has to be a change in how the criminal justice system and public perceives addiction and the people who struggle with it. Drug addiction should be revered as a health issue, not a criminal issue. In 2013, a law was passed stating that members of the public can be trained in administering Naloxone which can definitely save the life of someone who has overdosed.

What is naloxone?

Naloxone is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist. This means that it attaches to opioid receptors and reverses and blocks the effects of other opioids. Naloxone can quickly restore normal breathing to a person if their breathing has slowed or stopped because of an opioid overdose. But, naloxone has no effect on someone who does not have opioids in their system, and it is not a treatment for opioid use disorder. Examples of opioids include heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, and morphine.

How is naloxone given?

Naloxone should be given to any person who shows signs of an opioid overdose or when an overdose is suspected. Naloxone can be given as a nasal spray or it can be injected into the muscle, under the skin, or into the veins. Steps for responding to an opioid overdose can be found in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s (SAMHSA) Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit.

What are the different naloxone delivery systems?

Naloxone comes in two FDA-approved forms: injectable and prepackaged nasal spray. No matter what dosage form you use, it’s important to receive training on how and when to use naloxone. You should also read the product instructions and check the expiration date.

Injectable brands of naloxone are offered by different companies listed in the FDA Orange Book under “naloxone” (look for “injectable”). Typically, the proper dose must be drawn up from a vial. Usually, it is injected with a needle into muscle, although it also may be administered into a vein or under the skin. The FDA recently approved ZimhiTM, a single-dose, prefilled syringe that can be injected into the muscle or under the skin.