For information about naloxone, visit the Bring Naloxone Home campaign website.
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a medication that saves lives by reversing drug overdoses caused by opioids. Naloxone can reverse an overdose within minutes of being administered, giving time to provide life-saving treatment. Many emergency medical responders and law enforcement officers carry naloxone and have been trained in its use. But naloxone isn’t just for first responders—the medication can be administered by anyone, whether they have been trained or if they are following instructions included in a naloxone kit. A growing number of communities are hosting events to train people how to use naloxone to save a person who has overdosed.
Naloxone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent overdose death caused by opioids such as heroin, morphine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet). It reverses an overdose by counteracting the effect opioids have on the central nervous and respiratory systems. When a person has overdosed on opioids, their breathing will slow and could stop. Naloxone will reverse the effect of the opioid and allow a person to resume breathing. Naloxone has no effect on someone who has no opioids in their system, it does not cause a high, and is not addictive. However, naloxone only works to reverse an opioid overdose for 30 to 90 minutes. After administering naloxone, it is essential to call 911 and for the overdose victim to seek medical attention.
A detailed introduction to naloxone can be found on the National Institute on Drug Abuse website.
Since 2015, consumers in Colorado have been able to buy naloxone from participating pharmacies without getting a prescription. They are able to obtain the medication because the state’s chief medical officer created a “standing order,” which removes the need for a prescription.
As of 2017, more than 500 pharmacies in Colorado carry naloxone. You can find those pharmacies on the Stop the Clock Colorado website.
Currently, three forms of naloxone are available. Generic naloxone kits include a vial of medication that is either injected or, with the addition of an atomizer, used as a nasal spray. Narcan is a prefilled nasal spray device. Evzio is a prefilled auto-injection device that provides verbal instructions during use.
The Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention has created a brochure with information about identifying and reversing an opioid overdose using naloxone. People interested in learning more about using naloxone should consult the Consortium’s brochure and the resources listed on this page.
A growing number of law enforcement agencies are equipping its personnel with naloxone. As of October 2017, 151 law enforcement agencies in the state carry naloxone.
The Office of the Attorney General in 2016 launched the Naloxone for Life initiative, which provided 4,000 naloxone kits to law enforcement officers and first responders in 17 counties with high rates of overdose deaths. The initiative was a collaborative effort supported by the Consortium, Denver Health, and the Harm Reduction Action Center (HRAC) in Denver. Experts from Denver Health, HRAC, and the Evans Police Department conducted trainings around the state as part of the initiative. Between May 2019 and May 2020, 5,415 naloxone kits were distributed to law enforcement agencies across Colorado through the Office of Behavioral Health’s State Opioid Response program.
Colorado also has a “Good Samaritan Law,” which provides immunity from criminal prosecution for people who suffer or report an emergency drug or alcohol overdose. Details about the law are in the resources below.
Public health departments and harm reduction organizations such as HRAC are leading advocates for expanding naloxone access. See this list of Colorado harm reduction groups for more information.
Through Colorado SB 19-227, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) now has a naloxone bulk fund, in which eligible agencies — local public health agencies, school districts, public universities, law enforcement, and harm reduction agencies — are able to access bulk quantities of naloxone for free. Click here for more information about the naloxone bulk fund or to apply.