Responding to an opioid overdose

What to do for an opioid overdose:

Opioid overdose can be reversed through overdose reversal medication. There are several medications available. The most commonly available medication is naloxone, or Narcan®.

Step 1: Check for Signs

If you recognize the signs of an overdose check for responsiveness and/or breathing:

  • Yell or make a loud noise
  • Shake, firmly nudge or pinch the person

If there is no response, move to Step 2.

Step 2: Give an Overdose Reversal Medication, such as Naloxone, as quickly as possible:

Instructions for nasal spray naloxone, such as Narcan®:

  • Remove device from package
  • Hold with thumb on bottom of plunger—your first and middle fingers should be on either side of the nozzle
  • Place tip of nozzle in either nostril—your fingers should be against the nose
  • Press the plunger firmly with your thumb to release dose into nose
  • If first dose doesn’t work within 1–3 minutes, give a second dose

If an overdose reversal medication is not available, move to Step 3.

Step 3: Call 911 immediately

First responders can provide additional support and assistance with breathing and overdose recovery, including transportation to medical care if necessary.

Step 4: Help Breathing

  • Try to keep the person awake and breathing
  • Lay them on their side to prevent choking

Step 5: Stay

  • Remain with the person until emergency workers arrive
  • Give CPR if you know how and if it is needed

The goal of the overdose reversal medication is to prevent fatal overdose by restoring breathing. Naloxone is a temporary treatment. More than one dose might be needed under some circumstances, especially if an overdose event involved fentanyl.


Is there any liability if I assist someone who is overdosing?

No. California has two laws that protect individuals against liability when responding to an opioid overdose.

California’s Good Samaritan Law (Health and Safety Code § 1799.102) establishes that a person cannot be liable for any civil damages that result from providing of emergency care, such as reversing an overdose, if:

  • The person acted in good faith and not for compensation
  • The person provided either emergency medical care or nonmedical care
  • The care was provided at the scene of an emergency.​
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