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Can Narcan Be Used for Alcohol?

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Narcan is a potentially life-saving medication that can reverse the effects an opioid overdose. Narcan’s effectiveness has prompted some to wonder if it can help people who have overdosed on other substances. For example, can you use Narcan for alcohol?

What Is Narcan?

Narcan is the brand name of a nasal spray that contains naloxone hydrochloride (which is usually referred to simply as naloxone). Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means that it binds to the same receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) that opioids interact with. 

The timely administration of Narcan can prevent a person from dying of an opioid overdose. When naloxone enters a person’s system, it can disrupt the opioids’ connection with CNS receptors. This can counteract the life-threatening effects of ingesting an overabundance of opioids.

Narcan was originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2015. At that time, the FDA defined Narcan as a prescription medication, which limited its availability to professionals such as doctors, nurses, and some first responders. 

In 2023, the FDA approved Narcan as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication. This means that it can legally be purchased and used anywhere in the United States without requiring a prescription.

Public health experts hope that widespread access to Narcan will play a role in reducing overdose deaths in the United States. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids were involved in 80,411 overdose deaths in 2021 alone. With the nation recording a total of 106,699 overdose deaths that year, this means that more than 3 of every 4 fatal overdoses involved heroin, fentanyl, or another opioid.

Can Narcan Be Used for Alcohol?

Unfortunately, using Narcan for alcohol does not offer the same benefit as using it for an opioid overdose does. Alcohol interacts with different receptors in the central nervous system than naloxone or opioids do, so Narcan cannot help someone who is suffering from alcohol toxicity (which is the clinical term for alcohol overdose or alcohol poisoning).

However, while there is no value in using Narcan for alcohol overdose, certain other medications may be beneficial for someone who has been struggling with alcohol addiction. The reason why some people ask about using Narcan for alcohol may be due to the fact that one of these medications has a very similar name: naltrexone.

We’ll take a closer look at naltrexone and other options for people who have developed alcoholism in the next section.

Treatment Options for Alcoholism

Alcohol doesn’t pose the same risk of overdose death that opioids do, but the continued abuse of alcohol can lead to myriad negative outcomes, including addiction and death. 

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), excessive alcohol use contributes to an estimated 140,000 deaths every year in the United States. This number includes deaths due to alcohol-related liver and cardiovascular damage, certain cancers that are linked to alcohol abuse, and automobile accidents involving drivers who were under the influence of alcohol.

The risk of alcohol-related damage or death is highest among people who have developed alcohol use disorder (alcoholism). Thankfully, there are many treatment options that can help people end their compulsive alcohol use and live a sober life.


Naltrexone is one of several medications that may be incorporated into comprehensive treatment for alcohol addiction. Naltrexone can block the effects of alcohol and reduce cravings.

 If someone tries to drink while they’re taking naltrexone, they will quickly develop distressing symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. For this reason, patients typically don’t receive prescriptions for naltrexone until they have completed alcohol withdrawal (and thus eliminated alcohol from their system). 

Two other medications that may be used to treat alcohol use disorder are disulfiram and acamprosate. The impact of these medications is similar to those of naltrexone. They can alleviate alcohol cravings and prevent a person from experiencing any pleasurable effects after consuming alcohol.

Many people who struggle with alcoholism have also been living with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or another co-occurring mental health concerns. For these individuals, medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), other antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, and mood stabilizers may be included in their care.

Therapies for Alcohol Addiction

Medications can resolve some of the physical effects of alcoholism, but they cannot address the behavioral and social aspects of addiction and recovery. For help in these areas, therapy is often required. 

Depending on each person’s specific needs, the therapeutic component of their alcohol addiction treatment may include elements such as the following:

  • Individual, group, and family therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Relapse prevention therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Holistic rehab

If a person also has anxiety, depression, PTSD, or another co-occurring mental illness, they may also benefit from trauma therapy, red light therapy, and certain other services.

Find Treatment for Alcohol Addiction in Atlanta

Peachtree Recovery Solutions offers personalized outpatient services for adults in the Atlanta, Georgia, area whose lives have been disrupted by alcohol addiction. 

Treatment options at our center include detoxification, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP) with day and evening sessions available, outpatient treatment, and a robust aftercare program. We also offer gender-specific programming options for both men and women.

To learn more about alcohol addiction treatment in Atlanta, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.