What is naloxone?

Naloxone is a life saving harm reduction tool

Naloxone is a fast acting, effective medication that reverses the effects of an opioid poisoning. Naloxone restores breathing and when used in time can prevent permanent brain damage, and death.

Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) is a medication called an “opioid antagonist” used to counter the effects of opioid overdose, for example, morphine and heroin overdose.

Specifically, naloxone is used in opioid overdoses to counteract life-threatening depression of the central nervous and respiratory systems, allowing an overdose victim to breathe normally. Naloxone is a nonscheduled (i.e., non-addictive), prescription medication. Naloxone only works if a person has opioids in their system; the medication has no effect if opioids are absent.

It is a temporary drug that wears off in 20-90 minutes. For folks who are dependent on opioids, too much Naloxone can cause precipitative withdrawl.

Approximately 6 Albertans die each day due to drug poisonings. 98% of drug poisonings are accidental - 100% are preventable.

To combat this crisis and save lives, we provide Naloxone training to individuals who may encounter opioid overdoses. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and by offering this training, we empower participants to act swiftly and effectively in an emergency.

Naloxone Run Down

Watch these videos to gain a stronger basic understanding of how Naloxone works, and how to respond.

What Is Naloxone? (video - 3:15)

Responding with the SAVE ME Steps. (video - 3:24)

*NOTE: Often, it is advised to test for response by using a sternum rub - based on our experience, we have seen sternum rubs done incorrectly, which resulted in further damage and unnecessary pain for the individual(s). Sternum rubs MUST be done correctly, which requires proper training. We strongly advise AGAINST sternum rubs - instead, we recommend a Trapezius Squeeze. 1–2 inches of trapezius muscle is held and squeezed in total thickness, squeezed hard, and a response is evaluated in the form of body movement or response to pain.

Video: a caution against sternum rubs (1:54)

Video: How To - Alternatives To Sternum Rub (1:52)

Types of Naloxone

Intramuscular (IM) Naloxone & Nasal


  • Injectable Naloxone in known by its generic name, Naloxone Hydrochloride.
  • Each vial contains 0.4mg/1mL of Naloxone.
  • An initial dose of 0.4mg, followed by repeated doses of 0.4mg every 2-3 minute intervals.
  • More easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Is administered intramuscularly (in the muscle), not intravenous (vein).
  • Less likelihood of inducing precipitated withdrawal due to lower dose.


  • Nasal Naloxone is known by its trade name, NARCAN Nasal Spray.
  • Easy to administer.
  • 4mg/0.1mL spray doses per applicator.
  • One 4mg spray is the equivalent of five 0.4mg injections.
  • Impossible to determine amount absorbed.
  • Absorption may be inconsistent depending on intranasal substance use or fractures/injuries which may have damaged nasal passageways.
  • Higher likelihood of inducing precipitated withdrawal.
  • Difficult to access in Alberta (patented) and costs approx. 200$.


The drug poisoning crisis has affected far too many lives in our community. We offer comprehensive training services free of charge to support our unhoused community and promote a safer and more inclusive society.

Our Naloxone training covers:

Identifying the signs of an opioid overdose.

Proper administration of Naloxone.

Emergency response protocols and contacting medical services.

Harm reduction, safe supply, decriminalization, and the intersection of substance use, racism and colonialism.

Follow-up care after a response.