NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The overdose reversing drug, Narcan, is now available over the counter, but experts say the major milestone in the fight against the opioid epidemic is a double-edged sword.
The FDA first approved over the counter Narcan in March, but the drug officially became available for purchase without a prescription Sept. 5.
By Tuesday, Narcan was already available to purchase at several Nashville Walgreens for $44.95 for a package of two, according to the Walgreens website.
While STARS Nashville Director of Prevention Services Kay Higgs believes expanding access to the overdose reversing drug is positive, she said the most vulnerable populations will still face hurdles obtaining Narcan.
“There is still a stigma about people going into pharmacies to purchase naloxone, and it’s still a purchase,” Higgs said. “Where it’s great for those that have it, we want to still provide training and education and awareness for those who are still not able to walk into a pharmacy and those who are still having concerns about the stigma that comes with that.”
Sumner County EMS Captain Jackson Boyd told News 2 the generic of Narcan, naloxone, has significantly reduced the mortality rate of an overdose.
However, he worries habitual users will use the over the counter Narcan as an excuse not to get clean. Additionally, Boyd is concerned people who haven’t been trained to administer the overdose-reversing drug may run into trouble after treating a patient.
“When [a person] wakes up from this overdose state, they’re completely confused, and they become violent which will then turn into another situation that we respond to which is potentially hazardous,” Boyd said. “Having police department there and the fire department there and obviously us there, we can help mediate and somewhat calm the patient down.”
Boyd and Ashley Pace, Regional Overdose Prevention Specialist with STARS Nashville, encouraged the public to receive naloxone training so they can safely administer the drug to save a life.
“We stigmatize and think only one particular group of individuals is at risk of dying of an opioid overdose. Anyone who tries any substance in Tennessee is at risk of dying of an opioid overdose. Fentanyl is everywhere,” Pace said.
Pace not only trains the public on how to administer naloxone, but also educates people on overdose symptoms, statistics, and new trends with STARS Nashville. The training is free. Click here to learn more.