Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find answers to many frequently asked questions about Narcan/naloxone, fentanyl, opioids and overdose prevention.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Many individuals consume fentanyl without their knowledge (because they don’t realize that it is in the drugs they’re using), while others are intentionally using fentanyl because of its potency. You can find out more information about fentanyl, including a fact sheet on our Fentanyl page.
Narcan™ (brand name) or naloxone (name of medication) is a drug used to reverse an opioid overdose, including overdoses due to fentanyl. It is available without a prescription, legal to carry, can’t get anyone high and won’t hurt someone if they aren’t overdosing on opioids. You can learn more about Narcan/naloxone at our Narcan page or learn where to get free Narcan at our Local Resources page.
The American College of Medical Toxicology and American Academy of Clinical Toxicology consider the risk of exposure to first responders to be “extremely low.” Their formal position is below: 

Fentanyl and its analogs are potent opioid receptor agonists, but the risk of clinically significant exposure to emergency responders is extremely low. To date, we have not seen reports of emergency responders developing signs or symptoms consistent with opioid toxicity from incidental contact with opioids. Incidental dermal absorption is unlikely to cause opioid toxicity. For routine handling of drug, nitrile gloves provide sufficient dermal protection. In exceptional circumstances where there are drug particles or droplets suspended in the air, an N95 respirator provides sufficient protection. Workers who may encounter fentanyl or fentanyl analogs should be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of opioid intoxication, have naloxone readily available, and be trained to administer naloxone and provide active medical assistance. In the unlikely event of poisoning, naloxone should be administered to those with objective signs of hypoventilation or a depressed level of consciousness, and not for vague concerns such as dizziness or anxiety. In the absence of prolonged hypoxia, no persistent effects are expected following fentanyl or fentanyl analog exposures. Those with small subclinical exposures and those who awaken normally following naloxone administration will not experience long-term effects. While individual practitioners may differ, these are the positions of American College of Medical Toxicology and American Academy of Clinical Toxicology at the time written, after a review of the issue and scientific literature.

California Department of Public Health also put out a fact sheet in January 2022 highlighting the extremely low risk to first responders at the scene of a potential opioid overdose involving fentanyl.

UC Davis Health also put out a recent FAQ and video about the myth that fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin. You can view the FAQ and video here.
No. According to the California Department of Public Health’s Naloxone webpage: “Naloxone is safe and easy to use, works almost immediately, and is not addictive. Naloxone has very few negative effects, and has no effect if opioids are not in a person’s system.”
Yes, naloxone/Narcan is not a controlled substance. Learn more by reading the California State Sanding Order for Naloxone and the accompanying FAQ. You can learn more about other states’ laws regarding naloxone/Narcan access at the Safe Project’s website.
You don’t need to be a resident of Nevada County to get free Narcan. The free Narcan comes to Know Overdose Nevada County supporters for free through the Department of Health Care Services Naloxone Distribution Project and residency verification is not required. Many organizations and counties offer free Narcan. If you don’t live in Nevada County or nearby, you can learn more about locations across California providing free Narcan at NextDistro’s website.