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Perspective: The Importance of Accessible Over-The-Counter Naloxone

It is not dangerous. It has no potential for abuse. If administered to someone who is not at risk of overdose, they will generally experience no side effects. Worst case scenario it does nothing. Best case scenario it saves a life.
by K. Lanktree Modified: August 18, 2014 at 4:50 pm •  Published: August 18, 2014

It is not dangerous. It has no potential for abuse or dependency. And, if administered to someone who is not at risk of overdose, they will generally experience no side effects.

Worst case scenario it does nothing. Best case scenario it saves a life. So, why has this 'overdose antidote' not been made more widely available and accessible?

>>Read: Overdose drug available in Oklahoma for families of addicts

>>Read: Naloxone use as antidote for opioid overdose urged


One of the most common misconceptions is that these types of initiatives actually encourage use and do more harm than good. Of course, these misconceptions are no different when it comes to naloxone distribution and over-the-counter use. So, let’s get down to the facts.

First, naloxone is much safer and doesn't hold the potential for abuse and drug interactions like many drugs you can currently pick up over the counter. Tylenol and medications containing pseudoephedrine and even things like NSAIDs carry more potential danger than naloxone.

Many people believe having access to naloxone would only encourage and increase drug use, as there is no longer any risk or reason to stop the user from injecting larger and larger amounts knowing that the naloxone is there to save them. This is simply not true. Any opiate user who has had the experience of being given naloxone will tell you otherwise and explain it is not an experience they care to have again.


Naloxone is in a class of medications known as antagonists, which work by rapidly attaching to the same parts of the brain that receive other opiates, blocking their effects. This results in the user rapidly being thrown into withdrawal since it so quickly stops and reverses the effects of the opiate taken. As uncomfortable of an experience as this aspect of naloxone can be, it allows the medication to also reverse the respiratory depression that is often deadly in cases of opiate overdose.

However, when no opiates are present in the body, nothing happens, making it reportedly safe in the case of dosing a person who is not experiencing an overdose.

Methods of Administration

Intramuscular injections via syringe are no longer the only way to administer naloxone. However, it is still the most commonly prescribed and used form. Some of the most prominent new formulations include the Evzio, a handheld take-home version of a naloxone injection; a nasal spray version of naloxone; and even a wearable armband naloxone auto-injector. Training is of course provided for the type of formulation being administered in order to ensure safe use, as well as proper medical care.

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by K. Lanktree
NewsOK Contributor
K. Lanktree is a Freelance Writer, Former IV Drug User, Methadone Patient & Harm Reduction Advocate. She is dedicated to reducing the stigma and discrimination of Addiction and IV Drug Users through education, writing and poetry.
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