When you think of vending machines, you probably imagine buying a sugary snack or a cold drink. However, in Washington, D.C., six new vending machines are breaking the mold by offering life-saving tools instead. In addition to wellness products like COVID tests and condoms, these vending machines will dispense naloxone, known by the brand name, Narcan, and fentanyl test strips.
District health officials made the announcement just a week after the Food and Drug Administration approved the first over-the-counter version of Narcan. For those unfamiliar, Narcan is a medication that can quickly reverse deadly opioid overdoses by blocking the effects of opioids on the nervous system. However, it must be administered as soon as an overdose is suspected to be effective.
The vending machines are being placed in areas that have higher-than-average rates of drug overdoses, as well as areas with large homeless populations. Three of the machines will be placed just outside fire stations, where quick access to Narcan could make all the difference.
D.C. isn’t the first city to introduce these types of vending machines. Las Vegas, Chicago, and Cincinnati all have similar machines. In fact, a study led by a Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Cincinnati, Daniel Arendt, found that vending machines like these reversed nearly 1,000 overdoses in Cincinnati alone.
“Would it be ideal if everyone wanted to simply stop using drugs altogether? Yes, but that’s not reflective of reality,” Arendt said in a UC article. “In the end there isn’t anything more you can do to help a person if they die from an overdose during the course of their use.”
This pilot program in D.C. is being funded by a federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With opioid overdose deaths rising by more than 17% in just one year in the U.S., health officials say programs like these could make a significant impact in saving lives and addressing the ongoing public health crisis.