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Does Naloxone Get You High?

Amidst the escalating opioid crisis, naloxone has emerged as a life-saving medication that can reverse the deadly effects of opioid overdose. However, a common misconception is that naloxone can induce a euphoric high similar to the opioids it counteracts. Understanding the true effects of naloxone is crucial for its safe and effective use. Let’s delve into the science behind naloxone and explore whether it has the potential to produce a high.

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Does Naloxone Get You High

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone, commonly known by its brand name Narcan, is a medication that acts as an opioid antagonist. It works by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain, effectively reversing an overdose and restoring normal breathing. Naloxone has become an essential tool in emergency situations, saving countless lives from opioid-induced respiratory depression.

How Naloxone Works

Opioids exert their effects by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, leading to pain relief, sedation, and euphoria. Naloxone, however, has a higher affinity for these receptors than the opioids themselves. When naloxone enters the body, it dislodges the opioids from their receptors, blocking their effects and reversing the overdose.

Can Naloxone Get You High?

The answer is a resounding no. Naloxone does not produce a high or any euphoric effects. Unlike opioids, which directly activate the brain’s reward system, naloxone does not trigger the release of dopamine or other neurotransmitters associated with pleasure. In fact, individuals who experience naloxone reversal often report feeling uncomfortable or even dysphoric due to the sudden withdrawal from opioids.

Why Naloxone Does Not Induce a High

Several factors explain naloxone’s inability to produce a high:

  1. Receptor Affinity: Naloxone binds to opioid receptors more tightly than opioids, effectively blocking their effects and preventing the activation of the brain’s reward system.
  2. Pharmacological Profile: Naloxone lacks the structural features necessary to activate the brain’s reward system. It does not trigger the release of dopamine or other pleasure-associated neurotransmitters.
  3. Subjective Experience: The experience of naloxone reversal is often characterized by discomfort or dysphoria due to the abrupt withdrawal from opioids, reinforcing the notion that naloxone does not produce a high.

Uses and Benefits of Naloxone

Naloxone’s primary use is to reverse opioid overdoses, a life-threatening condition when the amount of opioids in the body exceeds the individual’s tolerance level. Naloxone can be administered nasally or intramuscularly and acts rapidly to restore normal breathing and consciousness.

Beyond its life-saving role in overdose reversals, naloxone is beneficial in other medical settings:

  • Emergency Medicine: Naloxone is routinely carried by emergency medical personnel to treat opioid overdoses in pre-hospital settings.
  • Hospital Settings: Naloxone is stocked in hospitals to manage opioid-related complications, such as respiratory depression following surgery or pain medication administration.
  • Addiction Treatment: Naloxone is increasingly used in addiction treatment settings to prevent overdose during detoxification or to help individuals manage breakthrough opioid cravings.

Side Effects and Safety Concerns

Naloxone is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, even in high doses. However, some potential side effects include:

  • Nausea and Vomiting: Common due to the sudden reversal of opioid effects.
  • Agitation and Anxiety: Individuals may experience anxiety or agitation as they awaken from the opioid-induced stupor.
  • Sweating and Headache: These are mild and usually self-limiting side effects.

Naloxone is safe for use in various populations, including pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and individuals with underlying health conditions. It is important to note that naloxone does not treat the underlying addiction; it simply reverses the immediate effects of an overdose.

How to Administer Naloxone

Naloxone is available in various forms, including nasal sprays, pre-filled syringes, and auto-injectors. The specific method of administration depends on the product formulation and the individual’s situation.

Here’s a general guide on how to administer naloxone nasally:

  1. Remove the cap from the nasal spray.
  2. Tilt the person’s head back slightly.
  3. Insert the nozzle of the nasal spray into one nostril.
  4. Press the plunger firmly to administer the naloxone.
  5. Repeat the process in the other nostril if necessary.

If the person is unconscious, check for a pulse and breathing. If they are not breathing, initiate rescue breathing. Continue monitoring the individual and be prepared to administer additional doses if necessary.


Naloxone is a critical tool in combating the opioid epidemic, capable of reversing overdoses and saving lives. It does not produce a high, making it a safe and effective medication for emergency use. Understanding its function and proper administration can help ensure that naloxone is used effectively to save lives and provide a pathway to recovery for those struggling with opioid addiction.