Narcan (Naloxone) | What Drugs Does It Work On?
Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, a medication that can rapidly reverse opioid overdoses. As an opioid antagonist, it blocks the effects of opioids, including life-threatening effects like trouble breathing.
Narcan comes in two FDA-approved forms: a nasal spray and an injectable form. It can be administered by medical professionals, first responders, or even friends and family members as they wait for professional help to arrive.
While Narcan is a life-saving medication, it only works on certain drugs.
What Drugs Does Narcan Work On?
Narcan works on all opioids. Opioid drugs provide pain relief by activating opioid receptors throughout the body.
They can also make you feel relaxed and euphoric, or “high.” That’s why some people abuse them and develop opioid addiction (also called opioid use disorder).
When you abuse an opioid (use it in a manner not prescribed by your health care provider), you face a high risk of overdose.
Common opioids that Narcan works on include:
Buprenorphine is a prescription opioid that can treat severe pain. It can also decrease opioid withdrawal symptoms in people who are addicted to other opioids. It’s prescribed under the brand name Subutex.
Although it’s considered safer than other opioids, it can still cause an overdose when abused.
As the most powerful opioid, carfentanil is not intended for human use, since even a small amount could result in fatal overdose.
Instead, veterinarians use the drug to tranquilize large animals, such as elephants. It’s prescribed under the brand name Wildnil.
Codeine is a prescription opioid that can treat mild to moderate pain. It’s also an ingredient in various cough medicines and cough syrups.
Some people mix codeine cough syrup with soda and hard candy to create a substance that’s often called “purple drank,” “lean,” or “sizzurp.” People who drink this substance (or use codeine in any other manner not prescribed by a doctor) face a high risk of overdose.
After carfentanil, fentanyl is the second most powerful opioid. Used to treat cancer pain, it’s available as a shot, patch, or lozenge. It’s also made illegally and sold on the street, where it’s been involved in numerous overdose deaths.
It’s prescribed under the brand names Actiq, Abstral, Duragesic, and Fentora.
Heroin is an illegal drug that’s smoked, snorted, or injected. It’s made from another opioid called morphine.
Because heroin enters the body so rapidly, it poses a high risk of overdose. This risk increases if you mix heroin with other drugs, such as cocaine.
Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid used to treat severe pain in people who need long-term pain management and don’t respond well to other pain medications.
It’s prescribed under the brand names Hysingla and Zohydro ER. It’s also sometimes combined with acetaminophen (a pain reliever better known as Tylenol) and prescribed under the names Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, and Vicodin.
Like hydrocodone, hydromorphone is a prescription opioid used as a long-term treatment for severe pain. It’s prescribed under the brand names Dilaudid and Exalgo.
Meperidine is a prescription opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. It’s prescribed under the brand name Demerol.
Like buprenorphine, methadone is a prescription opioid that not only treats severe pain but can also reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms in people who are addicted to other opioids. It’s prescribed under the brand names Dolophine and Methadose.
Morphine is a prescription opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. It’s one of the oldest and most popular opioids. It’s prescribed under the brand names Kadian, MS Contin, and Morphabond.
Oxycodone is a prescription opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. It’s prescribed under the brand names OxyContin, Oxyado, and Roxicodone. It’s also sometimes combined with acetaminophen and prescribed under the brand names Percocet and Roxicet.
Oxymorphone is a prescription opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain in people who don’t respond well to other pain medications. It’s prescribed under the brand names Opana and Opana ER.
Tramadol is a prescription opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. It’s prescribed under the brand names ConZip, Ultram, and Qdolo.
What Drugs Does Narcan Not Work On?
Narcan won’t work on any drug that’s not an opioid. For example, it can’t reverse drug overdoses caused by:
- benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin
- prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta
However, if you overdose on a combination of drugs, and at least one of those drugs is an opioid, Narcan may be able to reverse the overdose by blocking the opioid’s effects. It also won’t have negative interactions with any of the other drugs in your system.
If you or a loved one struggles with opioid use disorder or another type of substance abuse, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist to learn about our comprehensive treatment options.
Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
This page does not provide medical advice.
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Naloxone DrugFacts
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - Naloxone: The Opioid Reversal Drug that Saves Lives
U.S. Department of Justice - Does naloxone reverse any overdose?
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