Drug addiction and opioid overuse are major threats to life in the United States, with reports suggesting that 70,000 Americans fell prey to the epidemic in 2018, 92,000 in 2020, and 1,08,000 last year. To reverse the effects of these drugs and prevent the loss of precious lives, cities and aid groups have come up with a solution that is increasingly gaining popularity – Narcan-stocked vending machines. This article offers in-depth coverage of vending machine’s brand-new avatar – as lifesavers.
The Problem – Drug-Overdose Deaths
The statistic above makes for a distressing read. It indicates that the opioid crisis is only getting worse year by year. This complex issue is caused by a combination of factors – including the overprescription of opioids by doctors, the illicit production and sale of opioids, and the increased availability of powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The Fentanyl content (a powerful synthetic Opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than Morphine) present in cocaine or fake pills, has been silently killing the many who are unaware of its mixture or potency. The result is an epidemic of drug overdose deaths ravaging our society and claiming the lives of far too many people. To make it worse, no situation at hand has proven effective in curbing this. The police and the EMT are at loggerheads, as they could only reverse 1% of the 8,711 overdoses recorded.
The Solution – Vending Machines Stocked With Overdose-Reversing Nasal Spray
The solution discovered – vending machines stocked with overdose nasal spray, an approach that has even found favor with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). America’s governing body for food & drug safety has joined a few states in easing the restrictions on medications such as Narcan to facilitate its lifesaving role.
Narcan is an opioid antagonist. It binds the opioid receptors in the brain, therefore blocking the effect of opioids. This can reverse an overdose and save a person’s life.
Narcan is a safe and effective medication that is easy to use and can be administered by anyone. It is available in the form of a nasal spray, which can be sprayed into the nostrils of a person who is overdosing. The nasal spray is now available in vending machines located in public places such as schools, libraries, and parks.
Vending machines stocked with Narcan or similar medications can be lifesaving. The easier availability of Narcan also serves to destigmatize addiction. It normalizes the conversation about addiction, thus reducing the shame and isolation often experienced by people struggling with addiction.
In addition to Narcan, vending machines are now stocked with fentanyl test strips. These test strips detect the presence of fentanyl in a drug sample and help prevent accidental overdoses. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid often mixed with other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. It is highly potent and deadly if taken in large doses (as seen above).
How Is It Distributed?
Vending machines stocked with Narcan overdose nasal spray are becoming increasingly available. In the United States, Narcan is available in more than 40 states. It is also available in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. It is distributed in various forms, including nasal spray, tablets, and injectables.
Nonprofits across the country are working hard to install vending machines for this purpose. The Wittern Group first received a call from such an aid group, requiring us to outfit a few used vending machines to dispense Narcan. More than 100 such groups contacted us last year requesting quotes for vending machines. A few of the customers we now cater to in this segment include a Rhode Island group that volunteers to provide clean needles to drug users, Yale University, and agencies in California funded by Anthem Blue Cross.
“They’re putting them in fire stations, jails, churches, places that are public,” – Julie Burgess, The Wittern Group.
The availability of a tool, even something lifesaving as a Narcan stocked vending machine, does not license the abusive use of substances that could derail the health of individuals and the community. We will do well to understand that the solution we have in hand isn’t something drug users can resort to as a remedy to their addiction.
Used right, we have something that could take us on the long road to tackling the ugly menace of drug addiction, After all, innovations, even the little creative ones, have always shaped the fabric of our existence, helping us enjoy the fruits of healthy existence that seemed impossible even decades ago.
Reference link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/vending-machines-dispense-narcan-to-reverse-opioid-overdoses-11669003881