47,000 Americans lost their lives to opioid overdose in 2017. Unfortunately, these numbers have since increased. In 2020, the CDC reported 68,630 opioid overdose deaths, while projections for 2021 stand at 75,673 deaths.
FDA-approved opioid antagonists can reverse an opioid overdose and potentially save thousands of lives. While both naloxone and naltrexone are opioid antagonists, their duration of action, intended uses, doses, and formulations differ. In this article, we discuss all these differences and more.
What is Naloxone, and How Does it Work?
Naloxone is a short-acting opioid antagonist. This means it dislodges opioids from their receptors and can reverse an opioid overdose within two minutes.
Naloxone Formulations and How Are They Administered?
What is Naloxone Used For?
Naloxone is an FDA-approved treatment for opioid overdose. A systematic review shows that naloxone can effectively reverse opioid overdose. In addition, using naloxone can help diagnose suspected opioid overdose. This is because naloxone can only displace opioids. Thus if a patient improves with naloxone, an opioid overdose is most likely.
Doctors also use naloxone off-label to treat conditions other than opioid overdose. These include:
- Septic shock. Studies show naloxone can improve blood pressure in 50% of septic shock patients.
- Clonidine overdose. In isolated cases, naloxone has been able to reverse clonidine overdose.
- Opioid-induced constipation. Constipation can affect up to 81% of opioid users. Studies show naloxone can relieve symptoms in patients and reduce laxative requirements.