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Coming to a Store Near You: Narcan

March 29, 2023

Your upcoming trip to the pharmacy could include vitamins, shampoo and a dose or two of Narcan to have on hand just in case.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved making the anti-overdose medication, also called naloxone, available over the counter, a move that addiction experts say will help address the soaring rates of deaths from opioid overdose.

“Decreasing access barriers for a lifesaving medication is important and can save lives. Making naloxone available over the counter acknowledges the safety of this medication, slicing through some of the stigma and discrimination associated with substance use disorders,” says J. Craig Allen, medical director of Rushford, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network.

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Narcan nasal spray

Naloxone is available in several forms, but the FDA’s recent ruling makes a nasal spray available.

“There are many online videos helping people understand how to identify the signs and symptoms of opioid overdose, and how to use naloxone,” Dr. Allen says.

In addition, state-funded programs and those available at places like Rushford and the Institute of Living can offer training and harm reduction information. Rushford offers free trainings every month. For information, contact Kelsey Ludington at Kelsey.ludington@hhchealth.org.

Making naloxone more easily accessible – currently the nasal spray and injections are only available through emergency services and at medical facilities, or through prescription – has the potential to save more than 120 Connecticut lives a year, Dr. Allen says.

“According to a model based on research published in 2022 and shared by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, increasing the number of kits available in a given population represents a ‘saturation point,’ which leads to saved lives in witnessed overdoses,” he explains.

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The downside

Unfortunately, he says there’s also a negative side to this move. The naloxone must be purchased.

“Those without resources to buy a medication that is no longer available through insurance covered prescriptions will lose access,” he says. “It will be important to identify other avenues of procurement, such as harm reduction organizations and state-funded programs that provide training and free naloxone.”

For information on finding and using Narcan, visit these sites: