Sina Health Centre

Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Use

Opioid Overdose signs:

  – Not moving and can’t be woken, do not respond to pain (pinching)
  – Slow, shallow breathing or not breathing
  – Blue lips and nails (in people with darker skin, their gums may be blue or purple)
  – Person may be choking, making gurgling sounds, or snoring
  – Cold, clammy skin
  – Pupils are tiny

Naloxone is a fast-acting drug used to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.

Naloxone can restore breathing within 2 to 5 minutes. When you take an opioid, it affects certain receptors in your brain. Naloxone works by kicking opioids off the receptors in your brain and binding to those receptors instead. This reverses or blocks the effects of opioids on your body.

Naloxone only works if you have opioids in your system, such as:
  – Fentanyl
  – Heroin
  – Morphine
  – Codeine

Since June 2016, naloxone has been available for free through pharmacies, community organizations and provincial correctional facilities. This was in response to the opioid crisis, and in particular, the increase in overdose deaths. Fentanyl has been linked to many of these overdose deaths.

Naloxone is a relatively safe drug. Giving naloxone to a person that is unconscious because of a non-opioid overdose is unlikely to cause harm. However, naloxone will not reverse overdoses that are caused by non-opioid drugs (e.g., overdoses caused by alcohol or cocaine).

Fentanyl is an opioid that is prescribed as a skin patch. It is 100 times more powerful than morphine and used to treat severe pain. Most street fentanyl in Canada is produced illegally as a powder. It is increasingly found in street drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, and used to make tablets that look like prescription medications. Many overdoses have occurred because people did not know that what they were taking was contaminated with fentanyl.

Types of Naloxone Kits available in Canada. There are two types of take-home kits available:

  – Naloxone nasal spray is sprayed directly into the nose, where it is absorbed. It starts to take effect in 2 to 3 minutes. 
    Available in a multi-step spray and a single-step spray.

  – Naloxone injectable is injected into any muscle in the body, such as the arm or thigh. It starts to take effect in 2 to 3 minutes. 

How to use Naloxone:

IM Injection

Nasal Spray