Officials are hoping vending machines stocked with overdose-reversing nasal spray will help turn the tide on a record number of opioid deaths.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Food and Drug Administration and some states have relaxed restrictions on drugs that are sprayed into the nose to reverse an opioid overdose, including Narcan.
As a result, nonprofits are distributing more of the drug to opioid users. They told the Journal that getting Narcan as close to at-risk people as possible is crucial to preventing deaths.
“If we hadn’t had that vending machine, I might not have had my brother alive today,” LuDene LoyaltyGroves said.
LoyaltyGroves works at a homeless shelter in Moses Lake, Wash., and told the Journal that people staying with her brother in an encampment got Narcan from a vending machine at the shelter and used it to revive him repeatedly.
Fueled by the powerful opioid fentanyl, U.S. drug-overdose deaths exceeded 100,000 last year. Fentanyl has infiltrated the drug supply, killing people who are unaware of its presence in cocaine or fake pills and habitual users who mix it with other drugs.
The Wittern Group, a 90-year-old vending machine company, first got a call to retrofit a few used machines to dispense Narcan in 2018 from an aid group in Las Vegas.
Fast forward to last year and more than 100 groups that dispense free Narcan to drug users called the company asking for quotes for machines that cost up to $12,000.
“They’re putting them in fire stations, jails, churches, places that are public,” Julie Burgess, head of a division Wittern created to handle the demand for Narcan machines, told the Journal.
The Central Washington Recovery Coalition put a machine apiece in three rural counties last year, in an area where overdose deaths have risen 500% in a year.
Joey Hunter, who helped found the coalition, said they have each dispensed approximately 50 Narcan kits per month.
“For the people who aren’t ready for treatment, it’s saving a lot of tax dollars because they’re doing those reversals themselves,” Hunter told the Journal.
HIV-services nonprofit Caracole installed a Narcan vending machine outside its Cincinnati office last year because not as many people were coming into clinics to get the medication during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Caracole Chief Executive Linda Seiter told the Journal that Narcan dispensed from the machine has reversed 596 overdoses.
“We’re helping to keep people alive,” she said.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.