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How quickly does naloxone (Narcan) work to reverse opioid induced respiratory depression?

Narcan (naloxone) begins to take effect almost immediately or typically within two to three minutes. It is administered intranasally through spraying into the nose, but can also be taken by mouth or injected.

What is Narcan (naloxone)?

Narcan is a brand-name medication containing an opioid antagonist called naloxone that turns off opioid receptors. Naloxone binds more strongly and quickly to the opioid receptors in our brain than opioid agonists. It can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid that is leading to an overdose, particularly sedation and respiratory depression. This makes Narcan (naloxone) a very powerful reversal agent in acute overdose.

Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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