Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. These drugs are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused (taken in a different way or in a larger quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription). Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can lead to dependence and, when misused, opioid pain relievers can lead to overdose incidents and deaths. An opioid overdose can be reversed with the drug naloxone when given right away.Visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse for more information regarding Opioids.
- Naloxone temporarily reverses an opiate overdose by blocking the brain’s opiate receptors, allowing breathing to be restored.
- The duration of the effect varies, but typically lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. After the opiate receptors are no longer blocked by Naloxone, the individual may resume overdosing. It is important to call 911, even if it appears that the individual is no longer overdosing.
- Naloxone only temporarily reverses overdoses due to opiate prescription pain relievers (such as Oxycontin and hydrocodone) and heroin. Administering Naloxone to someone overdosing on other drugs will not have an effect.