Narcan in Pharmacies Will not Save Lives. Here's Why

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In NYC, drug stores are both ubiquitous and the main source for buying anything and almost everything.

Diapers? check. Milk? I'll pick it up on my way home. Advil? A midnight run and I'll be back home with it in five minutes. Whatever we need, the 24-hour pharmacy on the corner is the place to go. 

Just when we thought that these stores had everything that we need, they are making promises to stock one more item - Narcan. Narcan is an FDA-approved form of naloxone - a drug that can save the life of someone who has overdosed on opioids. Once in the body, Naloxone binds to opioid receptors, displacing the drugs that were bound there, and reversing the effects of an overdose.

Narcan is effective and should not only be carried by every first responder (which it is), but, should also be made available to everyone who has a person in their lives that uses opioids. When rolled out correctly, it is incredibly effective and should be an integral component to any opioid prevention plan. It is estimated that a distribution program in nineteen communities in Massachusetts reduced opioid overdose deaths by 11 percent and that in an eight year period, roughly 26,000 opioid overdoses in the United States were reversed by laypersons. 

However, pharmacies that promise to stock it in every one of their pharmacies in the country may be doing more to help their own appearance than the opioid problem.

In addition, the NYC Health Department and the ThriveNYC mental health initiative (led by first lady Chirlane McCray) have included, as part of their "Initiatives to Reduce Drug Overdose" signs on buses and local newspapers, urging the general public to "save a life, carry naloxone."

Are they really suggesting that average, everyday New Yorkers are going to go to the pharmacy, purchase Narcan, and carry it around just in case we happen to come across someone who is in the middle of a lethal overdose? Before leaving our apartments, we should make sure that we have our keys, phone, wallet and Narcan? Not only that, once we happen to come across a person who is blue and not breathing in the subway or on the street, we should safely administer it?

They cannot simply put the line "Save a life, Carry Naloxone" on the sides of buses and think that anything is going to change. The city needs to do more if they want to help people struggling with opioids in the city.

I am in full support of anything to assist with the ever worsening opioid epidemic. But, through the halo that is shining over the pharmacies that have sworn to stock their shelves with Narcan, even I can see that this is not likely to work. Worse still, it takes away funding and attention from actions that could be taken to lessen the terrifying opioid epidemic. With seventy eight people in the United States dying every day from opioid overdoses, we need both funding and attention to be pointed in the right direction.