Vending machines dispensing fentanyl antidote Narcan pop up across the U.S. as one small town of 7,000 forced to restock SEVEN times in a month – while opioid deaths exceed 75,000 this year
- In the latest move to counter the ongoing fentanyl crisis, several communities have adopted free Narcan dispensing vending machines
- The machines are stocked with Narcan nasal spray, some also include free snacks, condoms and socks
- Fentanyl killed 71,00 Americans in 2021, in 2022, it has already killed 75,000 people
- The machines are largely paid for by non-profits, although some local governments have begun to operate them
- In one small Kentucky town of just 7,000, the local police chief was forced to restock the machine seven times in a single month
Vending machines are being installed in cities and towns across the US that dispense Narcan nasal spray – the antidote to fentanyl overdoses – as opioid deaths across the country continue to spiral.
In 2021, around 71,000 Americans died as a result of fentanyl overdoses. This year, 75,000 Americans have already died from the lethal drug.
The high number of fentanyl deaths is exacerbated by the fact that users don’t know the fatal drug is laced into various other substances including cocaine and methamphetamine.
The purpose of the vending machines – which are largely being paid for by non-profits – is to allow users themselves to gain access to Narcan.
In most cases, users are given a code from a local non-profit to use on the machine.
In September, it was reported that the police chief of Vine Grove, Kentucky, Kenneth Mattingly, had to refill the Narcan dispenser he put outside of his police station seven times in just one month.
The town has a population of around 7,000.
Mattingly told the Wall Street Journal on November 9 that he has personally administered Narcan at least twice.
Fentanyl related deaths in the US continue to spiral out of control
In September, it was widely reported that the town of Vine Grove in Kentucky’s police chief, Kenneth Mattingly, was regularly refilling the Narcan dispenser he put outside of his police statio
When asked about the reasoning behind the installing the vending machines, Mattingly said: ‘For my agency, a death investigation is taxing.’
A 2021 study by the University of Washington found that 94 percent of cases where Narcan is administered, the administration is done by users, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal’s report also mentions that vending machines stocking Narcan also stock ‘free snacks, condoms and socks.’
Most Narcan kits include a single dose of naloxone, instructions for use, and a referral to treatment for substance use disorder. The machines hold up to 300 naloxone kits and is free for the public to access.
Julie Burgess with the Wittern Group, a 90-year-old vending machine company at the forefront of Narcan distribution, told WSJ: ‘They’re putting them in fire stations, jails, churches, places that are public.’
Burgess also said that the company is in contact with around 100 different groups that supply free Narcan across the country.
Funding for Narcan vending machines was included in the Biden administration’s $30 million HHS Harm Reduction Grant program which was unveiled in February this year.
Earlier this month, a joint effort between the Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health and Beacon Behavioral Health funded a Narcan vending machine project to the tune of $165,000 in southwest Washington.
The above graph show the CDC estimates for the number of deaths triggered by drug overdoses per year
Drug users are given a code by local charities to use on the machine
Fentanyl binds to opioid receptors in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. During an overdose, the brain is starved of oxygen, which kills off neurons
In October, a vending machine in a jail lobby in Wayne County, Indiana, saved the life of Deputy Brandon Creech. Creech became ill after encountering fentanyl on a suspect.
Other local deputies and other first responders all intervened to rush to Creech’s aide. The frail county trooper was then injected with three doses of Narcan, which local authorities said stabilized his condition.
Medical experts assure the public that it is highly unlikely that someone can overdose on fentanyl by coming into contact with it. The drug is the most dangerous when ingested or snorted through the nose, but there is no known cases of overdose being caused the skin.
Fentanyl binds to opioid receptors in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. During an overdose, the brain is starved of oxygen, which kills off neurons.
What is fentanyl and why is it so dangerous?
Fentanyl was originally developed in Belgium in the 1950s to aid cancer patients with their pain management.
Given its extreme potency it has become popular amongst recreational drug users.
Overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl jumped from nearly 10,000 in 2015 to nearly 20,000 in 2016 – surpassing common opioid painkillers and heroin for the first time.
And drug overdoses killed more than 72,000 people in the US in 2017 – a record driven by fentanyl.
It is often added to heroin because it creates the same high as the drug, with the effects biologically identical. But it can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin, according to officials in the US.
In the US, fentanyl is classified as a schedule II drug – indicating it has some medical use but it has a strong potential to be abused and can create psychological and physical dependence.
The narcotic was developed as a painkiller to be used in hospitals but its cheap manufacturing costs and high potency has made it a favorable cutting agent for drug dealers.
Meth, cocaine and street Xanax are just some of the drugs that are being laced with fentanyl. Just 2milligrams — the equivalent of five grains of salt — of fentanyl is enough to cause an overdose.
America is currently in the midst of a fentanyl epidemic, with around 200 Americans dying from the synthetic opioid every day. To put that in context, Covid is currently responsible for around 290 deaths per day, according to most recent official data.
Researchers at the University of Michigan found that a man that doused his hands in fentanyl for a long period of time had no signs of an overdose later.
Meanwhile, in March, the recent case of six West Point cadets who overdosed on fentanyl-laced cocaine during spring break in Florida put the dangers and pervasiveness of the fentanyl crisis back in the spotlight.
The chemical precursors to the drugs are being shipped largely from China to Mexico, where much of the illicit fentanyl supply is produced in labs before being smuggled into the U.S.
In November, reports that a new vaccine was being developed emerged.
It may be able to totally block the effects of fentanyl — potentially saving thousands of Americans from overdoses each year.
Researchers at the University of Houston, in Texas, developed a shot that was able to stop the extremely potent drug from entering the brains of rats.
The shot was able to block the drug from entering the brain without affecting other painkillers like morphine, meaning a vaccinated person could still be treated with other drugs if needed.
The vaccine works by stimulating T-cells in the immune system to create antibodies which bind to fentanyl in the bloodstream.
These immune proteins catch the drug as it enters the body and prevent it from spreading further and causing harm. It then gets processed in the kidney and flushed from the body.
Researchers told DailyMail.com the vaccine could be used by people suffering from opioid use disorder or college students who experiment with illicit substances.