Narcan's Dosage: What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Alex Brewer, PharmD, MBA

Narcan: Introduction

Narcan is a brand-name prescription medication that contains the active drug naloxone. It is also available in a generic form. Narcan belongs to a class of drugs called opioid antagonists.

This medication has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat known or suspected opioid overdose in people of all ages. It helps reverse an opioid overdose, which can be a life threatening medical emergency.

Narcan is available as follows.

  • Form: single-dose nasal spray
  • Strength: 4 milligrams (mg)

In this article, you’ll find additional information about Narcan nasal spray dosage and details on how to give someone the medication. For a comprehensive overview of Narcan, view this article.

Note: Anyone can request to purchase Narcan in any state in the United States without a prescription from a doctor. That said, Narcan isn’t an over-the-counter drug. Instead, it’s kept behind the pharmacy counter, and only a pharmacist can dispense it. To learn more about this, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Dosage summary

The medication is meant to be administered by a caregiver or another person to someone with a known or suspected opioid overdose.

For details about the drug’s dosage, see the “Narcan: Dosage” section below.

Finding a healthcare professional

If you’re interested in learning more about Narcan, search here to find a doctor who can discuss it with you.

This article describes typical recommended dosages for Narcan. These dosages are provided by the drug’s manufacturer.

Always follow your doctor’s advice about administering Narcan.

This article describes typical recommended dosages for Narcan. These dosages are provided by the drug’s manufacturer.

Always follow your doctor’s advice about administering Narcan.

Narcan: How to give

Narcan comes as a nasal spray. Each nasal spray device contains a single dose of the medication. It’s given by spraying the dose into one nostril. The person receiving Narcan does not need to inhale to receive the dose.

Narcan is meant to be administered by a caregiver or another person to someone with a known or suspected opioid overdose.

If you take opioids, your doctor may recommend keeping a certain amount of Narcan on hand in case of overdose. Make sure people close to you know the symptoms of opioid overdose and when to give Narcan. Also make sure they know where you keep Narcan and how to use it.

The Narcan website has step-by-step instructions on how to give a dose of the nasal spray.

After giving the first dose of Narcan, you or someone else should call 911 or a local emergency number right away. This is because the symptoms of opioid overdose can return after Narcan is given.

You can repeat doses of Narcan every 2 to 3 minutes as needed. See the “Narcan: Dosage” section directly below to learn more.

ACCESSIBLE DRUG LABELS AND CONTAINERS

If you find it challenging to read the label on your medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Certain pharmacies provide medication labels with large print or braille. They may also offer labels containing a scannable code that your smartphone can convert from text to speech. If your pharmacy doesn’t provide these choices, your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend a pharmacy that does.

Narcan: Dosage

Commonly recommended dosages for Narcan are shown below. If your doctor has prescribed opioids, they will advise you about how much Narcan to keep on hand in case of overdose.

Narcan’s form and strength

Narcan comes as a nasal spray. It’s available in a strength of 4 milligrams (mg).

It comes in a box that contains two single-dose nasal spray devices. Each nasal spray device contains one 4-mg dose of Narcan.

Typical recommended dosage

The typical dosage of Narcan recommended by the manufacturer is described below. After giving the first dose of Narcan, you should call 911 right away. The symptoms of opioid overdose, which Narcan is used to treat, can return after a dose is given.

Narcan dosage for opioid overdose

Below is an overview of Narcan’s recommended dose for opioid overdose. If you take opioids, your doctor may prescribe Narcan to keep on hand in case of overdose.

  • Dose: 4 mg (one spray) into one nostril
  • Frequency: if needed, repeat doses in alternate nostrils every 2 to 3 minutes (you will need a new spray for each dose) until emergency medical help arrives. Repeat the doses if the person:
    • doesn’t wake up or start breathing normally
    • wakes up and starts breathing normally after a dose, but then becomes unresponsive or has reduced breathing again
  • Maximum dose: there’s no maximum dose for Narcan

Pediatric dosage

The Narcan dosage for children of any age is the same as that recommended for adults.

  • Dose: 4 mg (one spray) into one nostril
  • Frequency: if needed, repeat doses in alternate nostrils every 2 to 3 minutes (you will need a new spray for each dose) until emergency medical help arrives. Repeat doses if the child:
    • doesn’t wake up or start breathing normally
    • wakes up and starts breathing normally after a dose, but then becomes unresponsive or has reduced breathing again
  • Maximum dose: there’s no maximum dose for Narcan

Length of treatment

Doctors don’t prescribe Narcan as a long-term treatment. Instead, they prescribe it for emergency treatment of opioid overdose. If you take opioids long term, your doctor may recommend keeping a certain amount of Narcan on hand in case of opioid overdose.

Narcan: Common questions about dosage

Below are some common questions related to Narcan’s dosage.

Is Narcan given by IV or IM injection? If so, what’s the IV or IM injection dose?

No, Narcan isn’t given by intravenous (IV) or intramuscular (IM) injection. An IV injection is an injection into a vein. An IM injection is an injection into a muscle.

Narcan is only available as a nasal spray. However, the active drug in Narcan, naloxone, is available as an injection. Healthcare professionals may treat opioid overdose by giving naloxone as an IM or IV injection. To find out the dosage of naloxone that may be given by injection, talk with your doctor.

Why do you need to call 911 after giving a dose of Narcan?

The symptoms of opioid overdose, which Narcan treats, can return after a dose is given. This is why, after giving a dose of Narcan, it’s important to call 911 or a local emergency number right away.

Narcan doesn’t stay in your system for as long as many opioids. As the effect of Narcan wears off, the effect of the opioid can return. This can make the symptoms of opioid overdose come back, even if the person initially recovers with Narcan.

Narcan isn’t meant to be a substitute for emergency medical care. It is meant to give someone time until a healthcare professional can treat the overdose.

Narcan: Dosage considerations

The number of Narcan doses needed to treat an opioid overdose may vary depending on several factors. These include:

  • The type of opioid used. For certain opioids, such as buprenorphine (Butrans, Belbuca, Buprenex), you may need to give several doses of Narcan to reverse overdose symptoms.
  • The dose of opioid taken. If high doses of opioids or multiple opioids are taken, you may need to give more doses of Narcan to reverse overdose symptoms.
  • The way the opioid was taken. If opioids are taken by injection or inhalation, you may need to give more doses of Narcan to reverse overdose symptoms.

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about how many doses of Narcan you should keep on hand. (Narcan comes in boxes that contain two single-dose nasal spray devices.)

Narcan: Missing a dose

Narcan is only used for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose. It’s not taken on a regular basis, so it’s not possible to miss a dose.

Narcan: Overdose

For some drugs, taking more than the recommended dosage may lead to unwanted side effects or overdose. However, there’s no maximum recommended dosage for Narcan. You can give someone a dose of Narcan every 2 to 3 minutes as needed to treat an opioid overdose.

Giving someone more doses of Narcan than they need isn’t known to cause unwanted effects, even if you’re not sure whether they’re having an opioid overdose.

What to do if you take more Narcan than recommended

If you’ve taken more Narcan than is recommended, this isn’t known to be harmful. However, call your doctor if you’re concerned. Also, you can call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use its online tool. However, if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or your local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

Narcan: What to discuss with your doctor

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist for additional information about Narcan’s dosage. Keep in mind that the dosages presented in this article are typical dosages provided by the drug’s manufacturer. Your doctor may recommend keeping Narcan on hand if you are taking opioids. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations.

As with any medications you’re taking, follow your doctor’s recommendation about Narcan.

In addition to discussing Narcan with your doctor, you may find the following articles helpful in learning more:

  • Overview of Narcan. For comprehensive details on Narcan, see this article.
  • Drug comparisons. To learn how Narcan compares with naltrexone, read this article.
  • Information on side effects. If you’d like to know about possible side effects of Narcan, view this article.
  • Details about opioid overdose. To learn more about opioid overdose, which Narcan is used to treat, see this article.

Disclaimer: Healthgrades has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

Medical Reviewer: Alex Brewer, PharmD, MBA
Last Review Date: 2022 Jul 14
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