Naloxone: This Medication Reverses an Overdose

Anyone who knows someone who uses prescription opioids or illegal opioids should know about a medication that temporarily reverses an opioid overdose. Used in a timely manner, naloxone can potentially save a life.

Naloxone became readily available in North Dakota in 2016. Commonly sold under the brand name, Narcan, naloxone can be administered by injection or nasal spray. Anyone at risk of overdose or who knows someone at risk is urged to speak with their family physician or local pharmacist about obtaining a naloxone prescription.

The opioid family of drugs, often referred to as “painkillers,” include prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin, and street drugs such as heroin and morphine. Those at greatest risk of overdose include individuals who use heroin or misuse prescription pain relievers, and individuals who use painkillers in combination with alcohol or other sedating drugs.

According to the national Center for Disease Control (CDC), overdose deaths in North Dakota increased from 20 deaths in 2013, to 43 deaths in 2014. The CDC calls prescription drug overdose “the new national epidemic”; in fact, prescription drug overdose has surpassed vehicle crashes as the number one cause of death in the U.S.

The North Dakota Department of Human Services Behavioral Health Division in partnership with the Reducing Pharmaceutical Narcotics Task Force has launched a campaign focused on providing information and resources about opioid abuse.  A helpful web page is


Signs of an Opioid Overdose

Face is clammy to the touch
Body is limp, and fingernails and lips can have a blue tinge
Sleep is deep, person has difficulty speaking, or cannot be awakened.
Breathing is slow or stopped
Heartbeat is slow or stopped

If you witness an overdose, call 911 and administer naloxone. Do rescue breathing or chest compressions. Remain onsite until assistance arrives and cooperate with first responders. A North Dakota “Good Samaritan” law provides immunity to those who help. Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)