What is an Opioid Overdose?
Opioid overdose happens when a toxic amount of an opioid—alone or mixed with other opioid(s), drugs and/or substances-overwhelms the body’s ability to handle it. Many opioid-related overdoses result from mixing prescription painkillers or heroin with benzodiazepines (benzos), cocaine and/or alcohol. When the body experiences an overdose, it experiences respiratory failure due to lack of sufficient oxygen in the blood. Vital organs like the heart and brain start to fail which leads to unconsciousness, coma and potential death if not responded to in adequate time. 

What is Naloxone (Narcan)?
Naloxone, marketed under the trade name Narcan®, is a life-saving medication that can quickly restore the breathing of a person who has overdosed on heroin or prescription opioid pain medication like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, fentanyl or methadone. When administered it reverses opioid overdose by restoring breathing in the body. There is no potential for abuse or getting high when administered and no negative effect on someone who hasn’t taken opioids. The side effects are minimal and rare and effects wear off in 30 – 90 minutes. The individual administering Narcan still needs to call 911 for emergency medical help. 

How does Narcan work?
Narcan works only on opioid overdoses, reversing them by blocking the receptors in the brain where opiates attach. Overdose victims usually resume breathing and awaken within minutes. Narcan is not a substitute for emergency medical care.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose

  • Loud snoring or gurgling noises
  • Body very limp
  • Unresponsive
  • Skin pale/gray, clammy
  • Lips/fingertips turn blue(ish)
  • Pulse slow or erratic
  • Breathing very slow, shallow, or not at all
  • Unconscious

The State of Maryland’s Overdose Response Program

  • Rouse and stimulate
  • Call 911
  • Give Naloxone
  • Further resuscitation
  • Care for the person

Click here to download the MD Overdose Response Brochure 

New Inhaler Device makes it Easy for Family, Friends and Caregivers to Administer NaloxoneGet training and free Narcan!  

The Overdose Response Program offers free training and certification in the use of naloxone, the life-saving medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. The program provides information on how to recognize an opioid overdose, administer naloxone, and care for the individual until emergency services arrive. Individuals who complete the training program will receive a naloxone (Narcan) kit. Training can be done in-person or online, and Narcan kits are available by mail. We can also provide training to agencies, organizations, businesses, and community groups at their location. To schedule a training, call 443.523.1700.


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