Naloxone is a key tool in the battle against a nationwide overdose crisis linked to the deaths of more than 100,000 people annually in the U.S. State and federal policy changes have removed some major obstacles to getting it into the hands of police, firefighters, people who use drugs and their loved ones. But it’s still often frustratingly inaccessible in the moments when overdoses happen, the Associated Press reports. As with other harm-reduction strategies, there’s been pushback from those who believe making naloxone available enables drug use. But Jeff Breedlove, policy chief for the Georgia Council for Recovery, said he no longer sees that as much of an issue. Instead, he said, funding and distribution programs remain spotty because they don’t have enough support from government and private groups such as chambers of commerce. “Until they treat it like an epidemic,” he said, “we will continue to have more and more funerals."
An influx of money is on the way, intended to help deal with the national overdose crisis that killed 107,000 people in 2021, the highest tally ever, most involving fentanyl and other powerful illicit synthetic opioids. Drug makers, distribution companies and pharmacies have settled lawsuits with state and local governments, and the first funding totaling more than $50 billion is going out. Most of it must be used to address the opioid epidemic, though exactly how will be up to governments receiving the money. Some settlements are even being delivered partly in doses of naloxone. Officials in every state have given standing orders to pharmacies allowing people to buy it, even without prescriptions. However, not all pharmacies carry it, and it comes at a cost: For those without insurance coverage, it can be around $50 for two doses. Stephen Murray, an overdose survivor and former paramedic who researches overdoses at Boston Medical Center, is so committed to naloxone access that he proclaims it on his personalized license plate: NARCAN. “My vision for it is to be in every 24-hour gas station in the state, free or 25 cents a dose,” he said. “It’ll be between the Tylenol and the condoms. ... It has to be just as easy as buying heroin, basically.”