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Free Narcan Machines in Durham Fight Overdoses

Last week, the Durham County Sheriff and Durham County Public Health announced a new "Narcan Near Me" project. They hope to help prevent overdose deaths and provide free Narcan to people in need of it via free dispensers that are being installed.

Opioid Overdoses Keep Rising

Like many places in the United States, the opioid crisis is still raging in Durham. According to the Durham County Health Department, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) recorded 481 opioid overdoses in 2020 and almost twice that -- 850 opioid overdoses -- in 2021. Statewide, there has been a 22% increase from the 3,304 fatal overdoses recorded in 2020, meaning more people died of overdoses in North Carolina than ever before. In 2021, a total of 4,041 people died from drug overdoses.

While experts say that the initial uptick was caused by increased isolation and addiction due to the COVID pandemic, it’s expected numbers will be higher going forward. Addiction will be increased as more of the drug supply is tainted with fentanyl.

Reasons for overdoses vary, but the large influx of drugs over the border and from China is part of it. Fentanyl is easy to get ahold of, often pressed into blue pills or sold as a powder.

People can also overdose on other opioids, like heroin or Oxycontin, as their addiction takes hold. Fentanyl has become a drug of choice for many opioid users, but people are still dying from it, unaware that they’ve even used it. Instead, many users think they’re using heroin or cocaine and end up with a tainted drug that their body is not equipped to handle.

Fentanyl, and another drug, xylazine, are also sold in combination as a highly addictive and dangerous drug. Known as “tranq dope” on the street, it leaves its users in what appears to be a zombie-like high and can cause ulcers anywhere on the body.

Narcan Vending Machines in Durham County

Overdoses can be seen as a public health challenge; every drug user comes from a family with somebody who cares about them. Communities can be deeply affected by opioid addiction. And alongside addiction comes overdoses. Recently, the Biden administration announced that it is making Narcan, the opioid reversal drug, available over the counter.

Durham County is placing a Narcan vending machine in the lobby of the Detention Center and already has one in a public health center building. The Detention Center has a dispenser that is open all the time. People involved in the justice system can get the harm-reduction tool free. Anyone can walk in and get the Narcan for free, which can save lives.

The county already has one in the lobby of the public health center building, but it's only available Monday through Friday during business hours. There are plans to get a dispenser for the local library, too. This is an experiment that will grow if they deem it successful.

"Without a shadow of a doubt, we're inside an epidemic. We know that overdoses are increasing. Fentanyl is certainly laced in every street drug out there on the street right now," Rodney Jenkins, Durham County Health Director, told ABC 11.

Harm Reduction Can Lead to Recovery

Harm reduction strategies, including carrying naloxone (brand name Narcan), can play a crucial role in helping people with addiction find their path to recovery.

Narcan can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. Carrying Narcan can save lives by giving anyone the means to reverse an opioid overdose. People who live through overdoses are often receptive to a chance at recovery. Some, however, do go back to using drugs.

The lifesaving intervention that Narcan enables can give addicted people the opportunity to seek help.

Harm reduction programs often serve as a bridge to addiction treatment and other support services. Free Narcan also communicates that the community cares about addicted people.

When a person receives Narcan or other harm reduction services, they have  an opportunity to connect with resources.

North Carolina can offer a robust amount of support for people seeking recovery, including Medication-Assisted Treatment, treatment centers, counseling, and support groups.

Getting Help for Opioid Addiction in North Carolina

If you or somebody you love is struggling with opioids, we’re here to help. We offer MAT as well as counseling to North Carolina residents. Get in touch to learn more about how we can help.

If you are in need of help, please call us at: 910-295-7246 or message us.

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