Last updated: September 25, 2023
You might think that Narcan vending machines would sell out faster than $5.00 Super Bowl tickets! They’re not though—but that’s only because they’re free.
A recent report put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that the total number of overdose deaths in the United States during 2021 was over 100,000. In light of the news, it’s no wonder that many cities and towns across the country continue looking for ways to distribute Narcan to those suffering from addictions to opioids—and other drugs now that fentanyl is being found in virtually everything sold on the black market. Narcan vending machines have come on the scene. And they’re proving themselves quite successfully.
Why give Narcan away?
Naloxone, often marketed under the brand name Narcan, rapidly reverses an opioid overdose—including one caused by fentanyl. It attaches to opioid receptors in the brain and reverses—temporarily blocking—the effects of opioids. It immediately restores normal breathing to someone whose breathing has slowed or stopped due to an opioid overdose.
The medicine, when distributed as a nasal spray, doesn’t require medical training to administer. Simply place the tip of the container in one nostril and squeeze. Contact emergency medical personnel immediately as the reversal only lasts between 30 and 90 minutes.
Also, some opioids are stronger, such as fentanyl, for instance, and require administering more than one dose of Narcan.
Side effects are rare and stem from allergic reactions to the medication.
How does the vending machine program work?
Cities that have chosen to install Narcan vending machines or kiosks include Las Vegas, San Diego, New York, Pennsylvania, and Detroit. Each city or township decides where the Narcan vending machines are placed.
Philadelphia launched its “Narcan Near Me” program in February 2022 with one vending machine located outside the Blackwell Library in West Philly. It’s the area of the city that’s been hardest hit since fentanyl came flooding into our country due to the open border situation. The distribution tower releases kits containing two doses of Narcan, gloves, face shields—in case rescue breaths are necessary—and a visual aid showing how to administer the medication.
All someone needs to do to access the kit is to press a button. Charlie Nolan, a harm reduction specialist with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health, restocks the kiosk often. He told Fox News, “I would say it’s pretty effective. It’s been accessed nearly 400 times since it’s been installed. I’m probably out restocking it twice a week.”
The city plans to install a second machine in the near future.
Michigan jumped on board statewide
Wayne State University picked up the gauntlet in Michigan and installed 15 machines across the state. It included placing one machine on its campus in Detroit. They look like traditional vending machines, but there’s no payment required.
“The payment mechanism has been shut off on all the machines that we’ve distributed. So, an individual just goes and hits B7 and the kit drops out and then they go on their way.” Matt Costello, the program manager for the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at Wayne State University, shared with Fox News.
Wayne State modeled its program after the success of the Los Angeles County Jail system because Michigan data indicates that there is a high risk of overdose post-incarceration. Therefore, Narcan vending machines have been placed in eight county jails. The other seven are in community settings. According to Costello, the machines have distributed over 19,000 individual doses of Narcan. The University applied for a grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. If chosen, the university will purchase and place 20 more vending machines throughout the state in October 2022.
Is it just a drop in the bucket though?
There’s no doubt that Narcan saves lives. And, with drugs pouring into our country in unprecedented amounts, the crisis we’re facing is very likely to get worse before it gets better. The fact that fentanyl is being mixed into virtually every other illicit drug out there has already made the situation far worse. While Narcan vending machines are obviously having a positive effect, it’s not enough.
Drug addiction is destroying our country. Millions of families torn apart and so, so many lives have been lost—it’s beyond heartbreaking.
We can’t ever grow complacent. We must keep fighting this battle with everything we’ve got until we win.
Education is a mighty weapon to wield. Use it! Educate your employees about the dangers of drug abuse. Realizing that the odds of becoming a drug addict run high can be enough to deter many from ever using drugs in the first place. Or, if someone “only uses occasionally,” it can be the catalyst that causes them to stop immediately.
Should an employee, or someone hoping to become one, test positive for drugs, show them compassion as they’re given the news. Do you express concern for their well-being? Do you provide them with a list of rehabilitation facilities nearby?
These things can provide someone with a glimmer of hope on what is sure to be a very dark day in their life. Losing—or not getting—a job because you tested positive for drugs can be a make-or-break moment in a person’s life. The way you choose to handle the situation could give them the confidence to persevere through the tough days ahead and make it!
It’s possible to beat drug addiction, but ultimately the goal is to irradicate it once and for all.