Philadelphia is facing the greatest public health crisis in a century. Every neighborhood in the city is being hit hard by an epidemic of opioid use and overdose. Across all racial and ethnic groups, the number of deaths from drug overdose is higher than the number of deaths from homicide. Of the 1,217 overdoses in 2017, 1,074 involved opioids.
Opioids are a class of drugs that relieve pain. When appropriately prescribed by a doctor, opioids help the brain block the feeling of pain. Misusing opioids can cause addiction, overdose, and sometimes death.
Philadelphia Fights Back
The City is working to save lives, improve access to help, and reverse the negative effects opioids have had on our communities. To support overdose prevention, the City is distributing the lifesaving drug naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote. DBHIDS is offering monthly lifesaving Naloxone (Narcan) Overdose Prevention & Rescue Training.
What is naloxone?
Naloxone is a prescription medicine that reverses opioid overdoses. It temporarily blocks the effect of opioids and helps a person to start breathing again. The drug is also sold under the brand names Narcan and Evzio. Here’s what you need to know.
- Naloxone only works for someone on opioids
- Naloxone cannot be used to get high
- Naloxone is not addictive
- Adverse side effects from naloxone are rare
- Naloxone is safe and easy to use
- It takes effect in 2–5 minutes
- More than one dose may be required
- Naloxone stays in the body for 30–90 minutes
- Naloxone may cause withdrawal (e.g., chills, nausea, vomiting, agitation, muscle aches)
Signs of an overdose
- Slow, shallow, or no detectable breathing
- Unresponsive or unconscious
- Pale, blue, or gray lips, face, and/or nail beds
- Loud snoring or gurgling noise
- Slow or no pulse
Anyone can access naloxone by:
- Getting a prescription from their doctor; or
- Using the standing order written for the general public.
Although naloxone is a prescription medication, Pennsylvania has passed laws making it available as a standing order, which allows pharmacists to dispense naloxone without requiring an individual prescription. Pharmacists can find more information about dispensing naloxone at the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association website.
Where and when
Naloxone prescriptions can be filled at most pharmacies. Although the medication may not be available for same day pickup, it can often be ordered and available within a day or two.
When you arrive at the pharmacy, be sure to:
- Have insurance card ready.
- Bring an ID.
- Ask whether the pharmacy has naloxone in stock to obtain through PA’s Standing Order.
- If yes, ask for the cost of the copay before the order is filled.
- If they do not have it in stock, request that it be ordered or ask if another location has it in stock.
- While many may have a copay for brand Narcan, other brands may be free.
- If the pharmacist declines your request, ask if they’re familiar with the standing order.
- If they are unable to fill the request or are unfamiliar with the standing order, please go to another pharmacy.
- If the pharmacist was unwilling to fill the request, please report your experience to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.