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What Factors Affect a Sufficient Naloxone Dose?

By B. Chisholm
Updated May 17, 2024
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The naloxone dose used depends mainly on what is being treated. Naloxone hydrochloride may be used to reverse respiratory depression caused by opioids, either in overdose or after surgery. It may also be used, often in combination with other drugs, to treat opioid dependence in addicts. The sufficient naloxone dose will be decided by the treating doctor on a case-by-case basis.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist which works by blocking the receptors on which opioids, such as morphine and heroin, act. Opioids are usually used to treat severe pain but they may cause respiratory depression, or breathing problems. They are highly addictive and dependence can develop rapidly, as is the case with heroin. Opioid toxicity may also occur in the clinical setting, or by accidental overdose. In all of these situations, a naloxone dose may be given to reverse the action of the opioid.

Newborn babies whose mothers have been exposed to opioids during the period before delivery and labor may experience breathing difficulties after birth. A small naloxone dose, determined by the weight of the baby, can be given to treat the respiratory depression. It is also used in children after accidental overdose of an opioid drug. Should a child ingest an opioid, such as morphine, codeine or pethidine, urgent medical attention should be sought, as it may be a medical emergency, depending on the amount ingested.

Opioid drugs may also have the side effect of itching or pruritus and a naloxone dose may help to prevent or treat it. Naloxone is available in most countries by prescription only. It is available under different trade names in different countries, according to manufacturer, and may be combined with other drugs, such as buprenorphine for maintenance therapy in recovering addicts. Naloxone on its own is given by injection and requires close medical monitoring to prevent under- or over-dosing.

As with any drug, naloxone use may have adverse side effects in some people. These may include nausea and vomiting, raised blood pressure, increased heart rate and sweating. The use of naloxone in some patients is not advised, such as those with cardiac conditions. It may also interact with other medications, including over-the-counter, homeopathic or complementary medicines. Any medical condition, other medications, pregnancy or a desire to get pregnant, should be discussed with the prescribing doctor.

The determination of a sufficient naloxone dose is precise. It requires a doctor's intervention and the prescribed dose should never be exceeded. Should side effects of naloxone occur, medical advice should be sought.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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