If you’re concerned about the possibility of an opioid overdose in yourself or someone in your household, you may be interested in purchasing Narcan (naloxone).

Narcan is a brand-name medication that’s available without a prescription. It’s used to treat known or possible opioid overdose in adults and in children of any age.

An opioid overdose occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally takes more opioid than their body can safely process. (Opioids are very strong pain medications, such as oxycodone or morphine.)

If you experience an opioid overdose, you won’t be able to give Narcan to yourself. It’s meant to be given by someone else.

Drug details

Narcan contains the active drug naloxone, which blocks the effects of opioids in your body. This drug works to reverse the life threatening symptoms that happen during an overdose. These symptoms may include excessive drowsiness, trouble breathing, and loss of consciousness (not being able to respond to sound or touch).

Narcan is available as a nasal (nose) spray. It comes in a box containing two nasal spray devices. Each Narcan device contains one 4-milligram (mg) dose. You can get this drug from a pharmacist without a prescription from your doctor.

The rest of this article describes the dosage of Narcan, including its form, strengths, and how to use the drug. To learn more about Narcan, see this in-depth article.

Note: Narcan is not a substitute for medical treatment. After giving Narcan to someone, call 911 right away, even if the person wakes up after receiving Narcan.

This section covers common questions about the dosage of Narcan.

What is Narcan’s form?

The drug is available as a nasal (nose) spray. It comes in a box containing two nasal spray devices.

What strengths does Narcan come in?

Narcan comes in a strength of 4 milligrams (mg). Each Narcan nasal spray device contains one 4-mg dose.

What is the typical dosage of Narcan?

The Narcan dosage for adults and for children of any age is one spray into one nostril. One spray delivers 4 mg of naloxone (the active drug in Narcan). The person getting Narcan doesn’t need to inhale to receive the dose.

If someone experiences an opioid overdose, they won’t be able to give Narcan to themself. It’s meant to be given by someone else. After you give someone the first dose of Narcan, you or someone with you should call 911.

If the person receiving Narcan doesn’t wake up or begin breathing normally within 2 to 3 minutes, give another dose of Narcan into their other nostril. You’ll need to use a new nasal spray device for each dose. Each Narcan nasal spray device contains one dose.

Repeat this process every 2 to 3 minutes, alternating nostrils. You’ll use a new Narcan nasal spray device each time. Stay with the person until the ambulance arrives. Then, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) will take over.

If the person getting Narcan initially responds and begins breathing, but then stops again, repeat the process above until EMTs arrive.

It’s important to note that Narcan is not a substitute for medical treatment. After giving Narcan to someone, call 911 right away, even if the person wakes up after receiving Narcan.

What’s the dosage of Narcan for children?

The Narcan dosage for children of any age (including infants) is the same dosage used for adults: one spray into one nostril, repeated as needed. See the section above for important details.

Is Narcan used long term?

Narcan is a rescue medication used to treat an opioid overdose. You’ll use it only in an emergency, so it’s not a drug you’ll use regularly. But if you use opioids long term, your doctor or pharmacist may recommend that you keep Narcan on hand in case of an overdose.

How many times can Narcan be given?

Narcan can be given every 2 to 3 minutes until the person wakes up and breathes normally. There is no maximum dose of Narcan, which means you can give as many doses as needed.

If someone experiences an opioid overdose, they won’t be able to give Narcan to themself. It’s meant to be given by someone else.

Here are some guidelines on how to administer Narcan.

  • Narcan is given as one spray into one nostril.
  • After you give someone the first dose of Narcan, you or someone with you should call 911.
  • If the person getting Narcan doesn’t wake up or begin breathing normally within 2 to 3 minutes, give another dose of Narcan into their other nostril. You’ll need to use a new nasal spray device for each dose. Each Narcan nasal spray device contains one dose.
  • Repeat this process every 2 to 3 minutes as needed, alternating nostrils. You’ll use a new Narcan nasal spray device each time. Stay with the person until the ambulance arrives. Then, emergency medical technicians will take over.

The drug manufacturer’s website provides step-by-step instructions and a video that explains how to use Narcan. If you or someone in your household is at risk for an opioid overdose, you should all know how to use Narcan.

It’s important to note that Narcan is not a substitute for medical treatment. After giving Narcan to someone, call 911 right away, even if the person wakes up after receiving Narcan.

For some people, one dose of Narcan nasal (nose) spray is enough to effectively treat an opioid overdose. Other people may need repeated Narcan doses every 2 to 3 minutes to be revived.

The number of Narcan doses required to treat an overdose can depend on several factors. These may include:

  • The dose of opioids taken. Taking a higher dose of opioids (such as taking an opioid with a high strength or taking multiple opioid pills) may require more Narcan doses to reverse their effects.
  • The type of opioids taken. Certain opioids such as buprenorphine (Subutex) or tramadol (Ultram) may require more Narcan doses to treat an overdose.
  • The person’s age. A child’s body may process Narcan differently than an adult’s. In addition, children may have a higher risk for losing consciousness again after receiving Narcan and waking up.

Narcan comes in a box of two single-dose nasal spray devices. Ask your pharmacist how many doses of Narcan you should keep on hand.

Narcan has no maximum dose limit, so it isn’t possible to overdose on the drug. This means you can’t hurt someone by giving them too much Narcan, even if you’re unsure if they overdosed on opioids.

It’s important to note that Narcan is not a substitute for medical treatment. After giving Narcan to someone, call 911 right away, even if the person wakes up after getting Narcan.

Anyone can purchase Narcan directly from a pharmacy. The law allows pharmacists to dispense Narcan without a doctor’s prescription. If you have insurance, your pharmacist may be able to bill the cost of Narcan to your insurance plan.

All you have to do is ask your pharmacist for Narcan. Or if you’d prefer, you can hand this Narcan request aid to your pharmacist. Your doctor can also send a prescription, but this isn’t required.

Talk with your pharmacist or doctor if you have questions or concerns about Narcan nasal spray.

Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask:

  • What can I do to help lower my risk for an opioid overdose?
  • How many doses of Narcan should I keep on hand in case of an opioid overdose?
  • How long is each Narcan nasal spray good to use for?

Q:

If Narcan works by blocking the effects of opioids, why are repeated doses of Narcan sometimes needed to treat an opioid overdose?

Anonymous patient

A:

Multiple Narcan doses are sometimes needed to treat an opioid overdose because the active drug in Narcan (naloxone) doesn’t keep working in the body as long as most opioids. As the drug begins to wear off, it’s possible for the person to relapse and begin showing signs of overdose again, including trouble breathing.

For this reason, it’s important to give another Narcan dose if the person doesn’t wake up or begin breathing normally within 2 to 3 minutes. This is also why it’s crucial to call 911 after you give the first dose of Narcan, even if the person wakes up.

If you have other questions about how Narcan works, talk with your pharmacist.

Alex Brewer, PharmD, MBAAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.