NEW YORK CITY — It isn't just paramedics, police officers and opioid users who should keep naloxone, a safe medication that reverses overdoses, on hand, city officials say.
An ad campaign launched by the NYC Health Department and first lady Chirlane McCray's ThriveNYC mental health initiative Monday urges the general public to "save a life, carry naloxone" as part of a broader effort to reduce deaths resulting from the misuse of prescription painkillers and heroin.
(Credit: NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene)
There were 860 confirmed unintentional drug overdose deaths in New York City through early November 2016, roughly three a day, Health Department data shows. That number puts the city on track to report a record number of such deaths this year.
Nearly half of unintentional drug overdose deaths since July 2016 involved the powerful opioid analgesic fentanyl, which is similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more potent. The drug is manufactured and sold illegally for its heroin-like effects, sometimes cut with other illicit substances.
When taken in excess, fetanyl can obstruct a user's respiratory system, an effect naloxone counteracts within two to five minutes when administered through injection or nasal spray.
The medication is available free of cost for anyone at risk of an opioid overdose — or anyone who knows someone who is — at these community-based programs. It is also available for purchase without a prescription at these 700 pharmacies. It takes a layperson minimal training to deploy naloxone, which became available over-the-counter at city pharmacies in December 2015. (New York first outfitted emergency workers with the medication in 2014.)
The Health Department's ads to promote naloxone distribution and use, part of a $5.5 million initiative to reduce drug overdoses launched by Mayor Bill de Blasio in April, will appear in local newspapers, convenience stores, nail salons, hair salons, barbershops and the Staten Island Ferry terminals, officials said in a press release.
The city is working to not only spread the word about naloxone, but to train health care providers on the use of buprenorphine, a medication that alleviates opioid craving and withdrawal symptoms, establish counseling support networks and monitor citywide drug usage.