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KBIA’s latest project focuses on reducing opioid overdose deaths in Columbia and its surrounding areas. The project provides information to learn more about substance use disorders, opioid overdose deaths, recovery and tools to reverse opioid overdoses. KBIA’s mission includes communicating information and engaging with all members of our community as a public service.KBIA will continue to cover this ongoing community issue. If you have a story you would like to share, contact news@kbia.org.

Common Questions Answered: Narcan, Substance Use Disorder & Recovery

Rebecca Smith

KBIA partnered with Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services and the Boone County Overdose Response Coalition to host an event in October at Douglass High School where the community could learn about Narcan®.

Narcan®, the brand name for naloxone, is a lifesaving drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.

Many community members attended the event – including people who wanted to learn more about how they could help, those with personal experiences with substance use and recovery, people working in recovery locally and even members of the Columbia Police Department.

Here are some of the questions participants asked, as well as other common questions people may have about Narcan, substance use disorder and recovery.

What is an opioid?

A class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. It works with the brain to produce effects like pain relief. An opioid can be prescribed to treat pain, but is not in the same category as aspirin or Tylenol.


  • Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Vicodin
  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl*

For a full list of opioid drugs click here.

*100 times stronger than morphine. 50 times stronger than heroin. It is a major contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the U.S.

What are the signs of an overdose?

Common symptoms of overdose can include:

  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Slow breathing
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Blue nails or lips/grayish nails or lips.
  • Tiny pupils
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Unresponsive/no breathing

How to store Narcan? And how long does it last?

Narcan® can be stored anywhere at room temperature. Narcan is shelf stable, but is sensitive to extreme temperature. Do not expose Narcan to temperatures above 104°F (40°C) or below 5°F (-15°C). Narcan does expire. The expiration date can be found on package.

To learn more you can visit the Narcan website.

Where to get Narcan?

There are a couple different ways people can obtain Narcan®.

  1. The health department hands out Narcan for free.
  2. Participating pharmacies can provide you with Narcan, even without health insurance. 

Is it illegal to have Narcan in your possession?

No. It’s totally legal and safe to own Narcan®.

Do Columbia police officers carry Narcan?

Yes, so do Boone County firefighters.

If you give someone Narcan and it turns out they are not overdosing will Narcan hurt them?

No. Narcan® cannot hurt someone even if they aren’t overdosing. It’s also not addictive.

What is the Good Samaritan law?

The Good Samaritan law protects the person seeking help and the person experiencing an overdose (or other drug-related medical emergencies). They are protected from minor drug and alcohol violations.

For example, if someone is overdosing, that person along with the person who is calling 911 will not be arrested for substance charges.

You can learn more from the Missouri Department of Health & Human Services

After the first dose, the person still isn’t responding, now what?

As always, call 911. Then, if you have more Narcan® give them another dose. Multiple doses will not harm the person.

Katie Quinn works for Missouri Business Alert. She studied radio journalism and political science at the University of Missouri- Columbia, and previously worked at KBIA.
Kassidy Arena was the Engagement Producer for KBIA from 2022-2023. In her role, she reported and produced stories highlighting underrepresented communities, focused on community outreach and promoting media literacy. She was born in Berkeley, California, raised in Omaha, Nebraska and graduated with a degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.