About Naloxone

Naloxone (also known as Narcan) is the antidote to an opioid overdose and saves lives.

Naloxone Nasal Spray Box

What is naloxone? 

Naloxone (also known as Narcan) is a life-saving medication used to reverse an opioid overdose.

What are opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that are used to treat pain. While they may be helpful when taken for a short period of time, they can also be highly addictive. The opioid class includes prescription opioids (such as oxycodone), heroin and fentanyl.  

Opioids can result in pleasurable feelings and euphoria. However, they can also cause nausea, constipation, and in higher doses, can lead someone to stop breathing (an opioid overdose).What causes an overdose? 

Opioids are the primary cause of drug overdose and overdose deaths. An overdose occurs when breathing slows or stops and can result in death when the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen.

How does naloxone work? 

When given correctly and quickly, naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose and restore breathing. This includes reversing overdoses due to fentanyl. As a result, timely use of naloxone can be life-saving. 

Naloxone should always be given when a drug overdose is suspected, even if the specific drugs used are not known. There are no risks of giving naloxone if opioids are not present.

Access step-by-step instructions for reversing an overdose in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tagalog.

Step-by-step guide for responding to an opioid overdose
Una guía que describir cómo responder a una sobredosis

Why should you carry naloxone? 

Overdose can affect anyone, and anyone who learns how to recognize an opioid overdose can reverse it with naloxone. Naloxone is safe, effective and easy to administer. 

Bystanders such as friends, family, non-health care providers and persons who use drugs can reverse an opioid overdose with naloxone and potentially save someone’s life.

What are legal concerns for administering naloxone?

California laws protect people who administer naloxone and make naloxone more readily available. 

Good Samaritan Law 

A person cannot be liable for any civil damages that result from his or her providing of emergency care, if: 

  • The person acted in good faith, and not for compensation; 

  • The person provided either emergency medical care or nonmedical care; and 

  • The care was provided at the scene of an emergency. 

Drug Overdose Treatment Liability Law 

Eliminates civil and criminal liability for: 

  • Licensed health care providers that prescribe naloxone and issue standing orders for the distribution of naloxone; and 

  • Individuals that administer naloxone to someone suspected of experiencing an overdose after receiving it along with required training.

Source: California Department of Public Health

How can I learn to recognize and respond to an overdose with naloxone?  

SFDPH developed an overdose prevention video series that includes information on how to use naloxone. Take the SFDPH Overdose Recognition and Response Training.  

You can also watch these videos: 

Additional resources:

For information or to request an in-person training for businesses, community groups, schools, entertainment venues, or other groups, please email us at overdoseprevention@sfdph.org.

Where can I get naloxone? 

Stop by the Behavioral Health Services (BHS) Pharmacy to pick up free naloxone and receive training on how to administer it.  

Additionally, you can receive up to 10 free fentanyl test strips, which help detect whether a substance contains fentanyl. 

Visit us at: 

BHS Pharmacy  
1st floor at 1380 Howard St  
San Francisco, CA 94103

How do you store and/or dispose of naloxone?  

Naloxone has a shelf-life between two to three years. Please refer to the expiration date on the package.​​  

Naloxone can be stored at room temperature and extreme temperatures should be avoided.

Last updated February 21, 2024