Naloxone, which is sold under the brand name Narcan, is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.1 Learn how to find free Narcan in your area so you can prevent a fatal overdose on heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers.
Where Can I Get Free Narcan?
Many communities give out free Narcan. They can be referred to“as “Narcan Distribution Programs” (NDP).2 You can contact your local community health services programs to find out where you can specifically get free Narcan.2,3
Sometimes pharmacies carry it. You can call and check with your local pharmacy and ask if this is the case.
Other locations you may be able to get free Narcan include:2,3
- Kiosks at public libraries
- Public health groups
- Community centers
- Local health departments
You can use a free naloxone finder so that you can search what is being offered in your area. Alternatively, you can search “Find free Narcan near me” or “Find free naloxone near me.”
You will want to screen the websites and find viable sources before contacting or reaching out. In states where an NDP is available, you may also search “or “Narcan Distribution Program near me.” Many states have .gov sites with listed locations and instructions on how you can access free Narcan. By using these keyword searches, you will be directed to these websites so you can find out what is being offered in your area.2,3
Do I Need a Prescription for Free Narcan?
Free naloxone comes in three Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved forms:5,6
- Injectable: Free naloxone injection can come as a liquid solution so it can be injected intramuscularly (into a muscle), intravenously (into a vein), or subcutaneously (just under the skin).
- Auto-injector: Free naloxone can come as a prefilled auto-injection device. It contains a solution to be injected subcutaneously or intramuscularly.
- Nasal spray: Free Narcan can come as a liquid solution to spray into the nose. Each naloxone nasal spray typically contains a single dose of naloxone and should be used only once.
Most states (including the District of Columbia) have a standing order that allows pharmacists to dispense Narcan without a prescription. This would replace the need for an individual prescription and is in place since obtaining a prescription from a primary care provider (PCP) could be a barrier for you.
How is Free Narcan Paid For?
According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance (U.S. Department of Justice), funds for free Narcan come from a variety of sources. There are some law enforcement overdose response initiatives that are being funded directly from their operational budget.8
Others have formed partnerships with:8
- Local emergency medical services
- Healthcare institutions
These partnerships have come together to cover costs and to provide free Narcan and training on how to use it.
In some locals, forfeiture funds are being used to provide free Narcan.8 Other federal funding opportunities have come from grants. In January 2017, there were some major funding opportunities released by the Bureaus of Justice Assistance (BJA) as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). This was the first major federal recovery legislation in 40 years. The programs covered by the act were the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program (COAP) and the Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) program.8 These programs that were supported by CARA helped to pay for free Narcan along with other services to help you recover from misuse and/or overuse of opioids.8
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently made funding awards for over $43 million in grants over multiple years so that healthcare providers and communities can help prevent opioid overdose deaths and for treatment opportunities.9 Community outreach centers can apply for the funding to gain free naloxone.8
Yet another source of funding for free Narcan is through the state. Many states have created a budget and grant programs that allow for $0 copays at certain pharmacies.8 The National Institute on Drug Abuse can be a useful link to visit to learn more regarding such programs.3 Furthermore, free Narcan can be available in emergency rooms courtesy of state funding programs.8,9
How Free Naloxone Treats Opioid Overdose
Free naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it attaches to opioid receptors to reverse and block the effects of other opioids in your system.1,3 It can quickly restore your normal breathing if it has slowed or stopped due to an overdose.1,3
Free naloxone works regardless of what kind of opioid has led to an overdose. This could include (and is not limited to):3
The reason the FDA is striving to increase access to free naloxone is that it is designed to be used by laypeople as well as trained medical providers.7
Research has shown that the access and utilization of free Narcan have substantially lowered overdose rates from opioids. This in turn has lowered healthcare costs and reduced the financial pressure on communities to respond to an overdose.12
Naloxone does not affect you if you take it without opioids in your system.1,2,7 It is not a replacement for entering treatment for the misuse and overuse of opioids.10
How Can Co-Prescriptions and Co-Therapies Decrease Overdose?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out guidelines in 2016 for medical practitioners to follow when prescribing opioids for chronic pain. It utilized the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation framework (GRADE). The recommendations were based on evidence-based best practices and feedback from industry experts, the public, peer reviewers, key stakeholders, and a federally chartered review committee.10
The guidelines covered:10
- When to initiate and/or continue the use of opioids for chronic pain
- Criteria for opioid selection, duration, dosage, follow-up, and discontinuation
- Assessing risk and addressing the harms of long-term opioid use
CDC’s goal for these guidelines was to improve the communication between you and credentialed medical providers and about the pros and cons of utilizing opioids to treat chronic, long-term pain, its effectiveness and safety, and risks for overdose and death.10 It also completed a comprehensive analysis that stated the use of opioids for long-term chronic pain from conditions such as cancer and palliative care provided some pain relief and enhancements in functionality.10
However, other co-prescriptions and therapies were found effective. By utilizing such modalities in conjunction with prescription opioids to treat chronic pain, credentialed medical providers can lower opioid-related overdose.10
Some of these therapies include:10
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Exercise therapy
- Nonopioid pharmacologic treatments
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Clinicians were also encouraged to utilize conversations discussing your values related to the long-term use of opioids, consider the risk-to-benefit ratio of such decision, the side effects, and overdose risks, and discuss the risk of overdose mitigation strategies with you before deciding to undergo this treatment.10
This approach was also found effective for patients who had conditions other than cancer or who needed palliative care. These conditions could include irreversible musculoskeletal injuries and other chronic illnesses with no known cure.10
If you have such conditions, you should discuss co-prescriptions and co-therapies to lower the risk of overdose. Also, you should find a practitioner who utilizes a collaborative approach with you when it comes to deciding to take long-term prescription opioids for pain relief from a chronic condition. 10
Where to Find Opioid Addiction Treatment
While obtaining and using free naloxone to prevent overdose is a very healthy life decision, if you are interested in pursuing recovery, opioid addiction treatment would vary based on your needs.7,10
It would start by speaking with a credentialed addiction professional, usually in a treatment setting. You would complete an initial assessment with the professional, which would entail discussing:11
- Your demographics such as age and gender
- Medical history (any previous hospitalizations or other medical conditions)
- Current medications
- How long you have been using opioids
- The method of use
- If you use other illicit substances or drink alcohol
- If you have any comorbid mental health conditions present
- The medical need for detoxification
The professional will then refer you to a level of care for treatment. The entire continuum of care consists of detoxification, inpatient and/or residential rehabilitation, intensive outpatient program (IOP)/intensive outpatient treatment (IoT), continuing care, transitional/sober living home, community-based self-help programs, continuation with an individual counselor, other such community resources such as a methadone clinic or Suboxone.11
Following a full continuum of care increases recovery success rates. This would allow you to connect with other survivors of overdose, recovery and treatment services (including free naloxone), receive psychoeducation, and continued ongoing support.11
Contact a treatment specialist at 800-662-4357 if you or a loved one feels treatment after a relapse is the right fit. If you’re unsure of where to start, contact a treatment specialist at 800-662-4357.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2022, April 21). Naloxone
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). Expansion of naloxone in the prevention of opioid overdose FAQs.
- National Institute of Drug Abuse. (2022, January 11). Naloxone DrugFacts.
- Get Naloxone Now. (n.d.). Ready to get naloxone? Naloxone laws and naloxone access in your state.
- MedlinePlus. (2016, February 15). Naloxone Injection.
- MedlinePlus. (2021, July 15). Naloxone Nasal Spray.
- Food and Drug Administration. (2019, September 19). Statement on Continued Efforts to Increase Availability of all Forms of Naloxone to Help Reduce Opioid Overdose Deaths.
- Bureau of Justice Assistance National Training and Technical Assistance Center. (2017). Law Enforcement Naloxone Toolkit.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Medicaid Coverage of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol and Opioid Use Disorders and of Medication for the Reversal of Opioid Overdose.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, March 15). CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain — United States, 2016.
- Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 47. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006.