Naloxone can be a life-saving medication for people who live with opioid addiction, as well as for those who are taking prescription opioids to manage chronic pain. This medication is designed to reverse an overdose, and it can be prescribed to individuals who are receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for an opioid use disorder. 

Naloxone can be given in various ways. Below, learn the answer to, “What are common administration routes for naloxone?” 

What Is Naloxone?

Naloxone is a prescription medication that is commonly used to treat opioid overdoses, as it can rapidly reverse overdose symptoms. Naloxone is also found in the prescription medication Suboxone alongside buprenorphine, as it discourages patients from misusing their medication. 

How Does Naloxone Work?

Naloxone works for treating opioid overdoses, because it belongs to a class of medications called opioid antagonists. This means that it attaches to opioid receptors and can block or reverse the effects of opioid drugs like heroin or morphine.

When administered  during an opioid overdose, naloxone knocks opioids off their receptors to reverse overdose symptoms. Since naloxone only provides temporary treatment, it is important for patients to receive emergency medical intervention as soon as possible after receiving this medication. 

4 Common Administration Routes for Naloxone 

There is not just one way to take naloxone. Below are the most common naloxone administration routes. 

Intravenous (IV) Administration 

Naloxone is commonly marketed under the brand name Narcan. An injectable version of Narcan was approved for use in 1971, with IV administration being the preferred route. This injectable form of Narcan is no longer marketed, but there are generic naloxone injections available.

Administering naloxone via IV causes the drug to work within 1-2 minutes, but it can be difficult to administer the drug intravenously in the case of an emergency overdose. There is also a risk of first responders being exposed to HIV or hepatitis B with an IV naloxone dosage. 

A naloxone dosage may be administered via IV route in hospital settings. 


The initial naloxone dosage given via IV administration will vary based upon a person’s body weight. Repeat doses may be needed. 

Intramuscular/Subcutaneous Administration 

Another one of the admin routes for naloxone is via intramuscular (into the muscle) or subcutaneous (under the skin)  injection. A handheld naloxone device called Zimhi allows bystanders, such as family members, to inject naloxone into the thigh of someone who is suffering from an opioid overdose. Zimhi can be injected through clothing if necessary. 


One dose of Zimhi contains 5 mg of naloxone hydrochloride. Repeat doses can be administered. 

Nasal Administration 

Perhaps the simplest form among all the naloxone administration routes is through a nasal spray. The brand name Narcan continues to market a naloxone nasal spray, which is available at the pharmacy counter without a prescription. Loved ones may purchase Narcan to save a family member’s life in case of an overdose. 


One dose of Narcan nasal spray contains 4 mg of naloxone. Repeat doses may be needed. 

Oral Administration 

Though not intended to treat an overdose, oral administration of naloxone occurs through the use of medications like Suboxone, which contains both buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is the active ingredient in Suboxone, and it alleviates drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, but the naloxone in this medication discourages Suboxone misuse , as it will send patients into withdrawal if they use the medication in an  attempt to get high. 


Suboxone is available in various formulations, which provide differing doses of buprenorphine and naloxone, depending upon a patient’s needs. 


Proper Use of Naloxone

To ensure proper use of naloxone, it is important to follow the guidelines on the medication label and to use the medication as instructed by a physician or pharmacist. If you are administering naloxone via nasal spray or an intramuscular/subcutaneous injection, follow the instructions on the medication device. 

What Precautions Are Needed When Giving Naloxone?

In addition to following guidelines on the medication label, it is critical to contact emergency medical personnel as soon as possible after administering naloxone. The medication is effective only for a short period of time, and a person may begin overdosing again if not provided with follow up treatment. Follow-up care, often in a hospital setting, is needed after administering naloxone for an opioid overdose. 

Other FAQS

If you’re seeking information on how to administer Narcan, the answers to the following FAQs can be helpful for you.

What Are The Common Ways To Administer Naloxone?

Hospitals can administer naloxone intravenously if needed, but in most cases, a naloxone dosage is given intramuscularly, subcutaneously, or nasally. 

What Is Naloxone Used For?

The most common use of naloxone is to reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone is also contained as an ingredient in Suboxone to discourage people from misusing  their prescription.

What Are The Side Effects Of Taking Naloxone?

The most common side effects of naloxone are opioid withdrawal symptoms, which occur due to naloxone reversing an opioid overdose. These symptoms include: 

  • Runny nose

  • Aches and pains

  • Yawning

  • Fever

  • Sneezing

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure 

  • Stomach cramps

  • Sweating

  • Goosebumps

  • Diarrhea

How Is Naloxone Given?

There are various naloxone administration routes. In a hospital setting, naloxone may be given intravenously. Naloxone can also be administered via intramuscular/subcutaneous injection or via a nasal spray.

Where Can I Get Naloxone?

Naloxone is available without a prescription at pharmacies in all 50 states. If you or a loved one uses opioids or has an opioid use disorder, you can get naloxone without a prescription in order to administer a life-saving dose in case of an opioid overdose. A physician may also prescribe naloxone to patients who are deemed to be at risk of an overdose. 

How Often Can Narcan Be Administered?

Narcan can be administered in multiple doses. For instance, if someone does not respond to an initial dose, additional doses can be given every 2 to 3 minutes. It is generally safe to continue administering naloxone until someone responds to the medication, but excessive doses may result in agitation. 

What Happens If You Give Narcan To Someone Who Doesn’t Need It?

There is no risk associated with giving Narcan to someone who doesn’t need it. If you suspect an opioid overdose and administer the drug to someone who is sober from opioids, it won’t have any effect. 

When Should Naloxone Be Administered? 

Administer naloxone as soon as possible when you notice signs of an opioid overdose. Symptoms of opioid overdose include:

  • Pale, clammy skin

  • Blue tint in the fingernails or lips

  • Vomiting or gurgling noises

  • Slow or stopped breathing or heart rate

  • Limpness in the body 

Receive Treatment Through Confidant’s Online MAT Clinic 

If you live with an opioid addiction and have suffered from an overdose requiring naloxone, there is treatment available to help you recover. If you’re looking for convenient treatment that fits your lifestyle, online medication assisted treatment through Confidant Health provides you with services from the comfort and privacy of home.

Download the app today on either the Apple Store or the Google Play Store to begin virtual treatment.