Naloxone, branded as Narcan, is a life-saving opioid overdose reversal medication. Myriad government programs distribute free Narcan and provide harm-reduction resources for communities nationwide. Keep reading to learn more about Narcan and where to find it near you.

What Are Naloxone Distribution Programs?

Naloxone distribution programs are government initiatives to fight the opioid epidemic by reducing opioid overdose-related deaths. These programs often provide free Narcan, Narcan administration training, overdose-prevention education, and other harm-reduction services. They conduct Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) programs to provide Narcan kits and educate healthcare professionals and the general community about naloxone, opioid use disorder (OUD), and stigma.

Naloxone distribution programs are designed to prioritize at-risk communities and ensure free Narcan is available for those in need. Through these programs, persons experiencing active addiction and those likely to witness an opioid overdose, such as treatment facility staff, school faculty and administrators, first responders, healthcare providers, law enforcement, and community members, can easily access Narcan.

Narcan and Overdose Prevention

The increase in free Narcan availability has saved many lives. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved over-the-counter Narcan, expanding access nationwide. Research shows people can easily administer Narcan without medical supervision and with minimal training.

Narcan reverses opioid overdoses by blocking the effects of opioids. It quickly restores breathing within 2 to 3 minutes in those whose breathing has slowed or stopped due to an opioid overdose. People may administer multiple Narcan doses for overdoses from stronger opioids, like fentanyl.

What Drugs Are Narcan Used For?

People use Narcan to reverse illicit and prescription opioid overdoses. Narcan is also effective for overdoses from drugs laced with opioids. Here are some common drugs people use Narcan for.


Heroin is an illicit opioid made from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pods of opium poppy plants. This highly addictive, rapidly-acting opioid is responsible for thousands of drug overdoses and deaths every year. Heroin comes in many forms, including brown or white powder and a black sticky substance called black tar heroin.


Fentanyl is a highly potent and addictive synthetic opioid, which is responsible for many of the opioid overdoses seen today. Between 2013 and 2021, more than 258,000 people died from fatal fentanyl overdoses. Because fentanyl is manmade and over 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, drug traffickers often mix it with other opioids and illicit drugs to increase its effect and the likelihood of addiction.

Prescription Opioids

Narcan can reverse prescription medication overdoses involving oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone, morphine, codeine, buprenorphine, and hydromorphone. Although medical professionals often prescribe these medications, many people with OUD may misuse their prescriptions or buy and use prescription opioids illicitly.

Opioid-Laced Drugs

Drug traffickers often lace other drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine with opioids, particularly fentanyl. Narcan may still reverse these overdoses, so it’s crucial to administer it even if you aren’t sure what the person is overdosing from.

How to Administer Narcan

Understanding how to administer Narcan is essential to potentially save someone’s life. There are two ways to administer Narcan: nasal administration and injection. Both are widely available to the public for anyone to use without medical training or authorization.

Narcan spray comes in a prefilled device to spray the medication into the nose. Injectable Narcan is a solution you can administer into the muscle or under the skin of someone who is experiencing an overdose. If someone is experiencing an overdose, follow these steps to use Narcan effectively after calling 911.

Nasal Administration

  • Step 1: Lay the person on their back.
  • Step 2: Remove the Narcan spray and open it by peeling back the tab with the circle.
  • Step 3: Hold the Narcan with your thumb on the bottom of the red plunger and your first and middle fingers on either side of the nozzle.
  • Step 4: Tilt the person’s head back, supporting their neck, and gently insert the nozzle into one nostril until your fingers touch the bottom of their nose.
  • Step 5: Press the red plunger firmly to give the dose.
  • Step 6: Remove the nozzle from the person’s nostril.
  • Step 7: Stay with the person until medical help arrives.

Injection Administration

  • Step 1: Remove the orange cap from the vial and insert the needle through the rubber stopper.
  • Step 2: Draw all of the solution into the needle by pulling back on the plunger. Ensure the syringe fills with liquid — not air. If you see air bubbles in the syringe, flick the syringe with your fingertip until bubbles clear.
  • Step 3: Inject the needle straight into the shoulder muscle or into the front of the thigh.
  • Step 4: Push down on the plunger to empty the syringe.
  • Step 5: Wait 3 to 5 minutes for the person to respond. If they do not respond, inject another dose. (Don’t wait more than 5 minutes to give a second dose.)
  • Step 6: Stay with the person until medical help arrives.

Where To Get Free Narcan Near You

Free Narcan is generally available nationwide. Many U.S. communities have harm reduction programs where you can find low-cost or free Narcan kits, drug testing strips, and other safer drug use supplies. You can also order free Narcan online and or find it at clinics, pharmacies, libraries, and even vending machines.

The National Harm Reduction Coalition also has a program locator where you can browse local community harm-reduction programs in your area that may supply free Narcan.



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