Fighting opioid overdoses with a one-of-a-kind vending machine

Last year, 100,000 Americans died from illegal, or street opioids, like fentanyl.

CINCINNATI, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) – With skyrocketing numbers of opioid overdoses and deaths, public health experts and communities nationwide have tried to develop programs to distribute naloxone – also known by the brand name Narcan – to reverse the effects of opioid overdose.

In 2020, 44 Americans died every day from a prescription opioid overdose – 16,000 in one year. Last year, 100,000 Americans died from illegal, or street opioids, like fentanyl.

Now, a new program is designed to provide help.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati paired with the nonprofit Caracole to provide supplies from what they call “harm reduction vending machines.”

“Safer injection kits, injectable naloxone, and nasal naloxone,” said Suzanne Bachmeyer, director of Prevention at Caracole.

Those and more all readily accessible in a secure machine that resembles a vending machine. People call a number to get a code to access supplies. Bachmeyer and UC researcher Daniel Arendt, PharmD, BCPS know to some, it may feel counterintuitive to provide free naloxone and fentanyl test strips to people struggling with addiction, but …

“We do not believe that providing supplies to keep people safe, to keep people from overdosing and to keep people from contracting infectious diseases, enables them in any way,” Bachmeyer said.

The vending machine has been operational for two years. More than 1,000 people have used it and researchers say it’s contributing to a decrease in overdose deaths in Cincinnati and the surrounding area.

“It’s, again, important to recognize, nationwide, up 15%, preliminary for us, down 10%,” Arendt said.

Advocates say the harm reduction program – that keeps the supplies locked but within reach anonymously – may eliminate any fear of arrest or reprisals. Bachmeyer said many other health organizations and community groups nationwide have contacted them to learn more about their program. A second vending machine is now in place in another Ohio county. They say the program is funded entirely by private grants and donations.