Narcan vending machines in King Co. show signs of success 1 year in
Apr 17, 2023, 9:53 AM | Updated: 10:41 am
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
King County has been installing Narcan — a life-saving opioid overdose prevention medication — in vending machines for a year to fight against the rising overdose fatalities of fentanyl.
The vending machine program first started in April 2022, and has distributed over 13,000 Narcan kits.
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Naloxone can be given as a nasal spray or injected into the muscle, under the skin, or into the veins, The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) website said.
Naloxone has no effect on someone who doesn’t have opioids in their system and is not a treatment for opioid use disorder. It is used to reverse an overdose. Naloxone cannot be used recreationally, as it has no effect on someone who does not have opioids in their system, according to NIDA.
Public Health — Seattle & King County (KCPH) said they have partnered with local organizations, including Peer Washington, to place the vending machines at sites to provide the resources and overdose prevention supplies.
“With the risk of fatal overdose from fentanyl, we want to ensure everyone in King County has access to tools to help reduce the risk of overdose deaths in our community,” Public Health said. “As part of this outreach effort, Public Health has been working to lower barriers to overdose prevention supplies, not only through online ordering but also through placing supplies in vending machines where they can be easily accessible.”
The vending machines are filled with Narcan, or its generic name naloxone, and fentanyl test strips.
Within six months of this program, almost 40% of those who used the vending machines had not carried naloxone before, which KCPH claimed is good because the vending machines are an outreach and education tool about overdose and harm reduction.
“While sitting in the lobby, they saw the Narcan vending machine and we got to talking about how their lives had changed since transitioning from using heroin to using fentanyl. I discovered neither had ever used naloxone before,” one Peer Kent staff member said. “I walked them through getting kits and showed them how to use naloxone. A couple of weeks later, the woman came in to see me and let me know that she had used Narcan on her significant other and saved his life from an overdose. Following his hospitalization, they both entered detox and were recently released.”
You can also get free Narcan sent to you if you are a King County resident, which can be ordered online here.
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved selling naloxone without a prescription in late March, setting the overdose-reversing drug on course to become the first opioid treatment drug to be sold over the counter. Narcan will become available over the counter by late summer.
“There’s something special about being able to offer immediate, life-saving medication, free of charge. Our members face long journeys when it comes to recovery, or securing housing and employment, so offering a resource that provides immediate relief goes a long way.” Shannon French, volunteer at Peer Seattle.