Drugs Home > What Is Naloxone Used For?

To reverse the effects of opioids, healthcare providers may recommend the use of naloxone. This prescription drug is injected in a vein, muscle, or under the skin to diagnose and treat an opioid overdose or to increase blood pressure in people who have septic shock. Naloxone works by binding to opioid receptors, which prevents other opioids from also binding to the receptors.


An Overview of Uses for Naloxone

Naloxone hydrochloride (Narcan®) is a prescription opioid antidote. It blocks the actions of opioid narcotic medications, and is approved to:
  • Reverse the effects of opioids
  • Diagnose a suspected opioid overdose
  • Increase blood pressure in people with septic shock. 
Opioids include certain prescription pain medications, such as:
All opioid medications can cause life-threatening effects, such as slowed and shallow breathing (known as respiratory depression), especially when used in high doses.
Naloxone is used to reverse respiratory depression and other potentially dangerous side effects that can result from an opioid overdose or in cases where high opioid doses are given, such as during surgery or for the treatment of cancer pain. It is also approved to diagnose a suspected opioid overdose, which means it can be used to tell if symptoms that resemble those of an opioid overdose are actually caused by too much of an opioid medicine.
Unlike opioids, naloxone does not have the potential to be abused. It cannot be used to get high because it does not produce the euphoria or pleasurable effects that can happen when opioid medications are taken.
Naloxone may also be used to help increase blood pressure in people with septic shock. Septic shock is a serious medical condition that occurs when an infection in the blood causes a dangerous drop in blood pressure. As a result, the body's essential organs do not get the blood they need to function properly.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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