Opioid overdose medication available in vending machines in DC (includes video story)

Just last month the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Narcan, an opioid overdose medication to be sold over the counter, in hopes it would be a game changer for overdose cases around the U.S. 

To help distribute the product, Washington, D.C. has started distributing vending machines that offer Narcan and fentanyl test strips in areas with higher-than-usual drug overdoses.

Allison Schild is a family engagement manager at Citrus Family Care Network and has been sober for seven years. She said Narcan has saved hundreds of lives and believes that if she had not quit when she did, she would have been a victim of a fentanyl overdose. 

“I quit using literally the month, it felt like the week, fentanyl exploded onto the scene,” she said. “And I know the way that I used drugs, I know that if I continued to use drugs I would not be here today….It was very quickly after I stopped using that my friends started dying.”

The National Institutes of Health says fentanyl distribution has increased in the last decade because of how cheap and strong it is. It has been mixed into or sold as other drugs including heroin and cocaine. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says a lethal dose is as little as two milligrams. 

John Newcomer, president and CEO of Thriving Mind South Florida, emphasized the importance of awareness as prevention and agreed that pilot programs such as the one seen in D.C. could save lives in Florida. 

“I think that this decision of the FDA to create an over-the-counter Narcan is very timely,” he said. “You could argue overdue, but the FDA is very cautious. I think the idea is access, access, access, and getting this life-saving product into the hands of all the people who can help is a no-brainer.”

According to a report by the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in D.C., there were 448 opioid-related deaths in 2022. The report also shows that 96 percent of fatal overdoses involved fentanyl or a fentanyl analog, and older African-American residents were most affected. The Florida Department of Health reported over 6.000 opioid-related deaths. 

“We are finding that it’s all ages,” said Lisa Keeler, regional director of Project Opioid South Florida. “But it is trending down now because of social media and kids thinking that they are getting something, that they are purchasing a Xanax, Adderall, or Oxy on social media, and it’s actually fentanyl.”

Keeler explained that Project Opioid is expanding its awareness efforts into universities and is working with the Miami Dade Public Schools to supply them with Narcan and make sure all school officers carry it with them. 

She encourages everyone to carry the nasal spray with them at all times. The organization has created a new program to make sure Narcan or Kloxado, a higher-dose version of Narcan, is accessible to all Florida residents.

“I encourage everyone who reads this,” she said. “If you call Project Opioid we will give you Kloxxado or Narcan for free. If you are having a party and … you want to have a couple of sprays, we really encourage that.”

Rachel Costa is a student at Florida International University majoring in Digital Journalism and Communications. She was born and raised in Brazil, and enjoys reading and writing. In the future, she hopes to work in the publishing industry.