Harm reduction

Narcan: Resources for harm reduction in NY

Discover Narcan resources in NY for opioid harm reduction. Learn about naloxone, its usage, storage, and community training in New York state.

By:
Ophelia team
Resources for harm reduction in New York
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Fact checked by
Dana Drew, NP

The opioid crisis continues to devastate communities across the country. More than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2022, and the majority of these overdoses involved opioids. Officials, activists, and addiction professionals are working together to try to fight this crisis through several harm reduction strategies. 

In New York, one of the prominent harm reduction approaches is increasing access to Narcan (naloxone), a life-saving drug that reverses opioid overdoses. Making Narcan more accessible to those who may need it helps prevent overdose deaths. But what exactly is Narcan

Facts about Narcan and usage

Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, a drug that rapidly reverses opioid overdoses. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved Narcan as a prescription medication, but in 2023, approved the first nasal spray for over-the-counter use

What is naloxone? 

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it binds to opioid receptors in the brain without activating them. It reverses and blocks the effects of opioids like heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, and morphine. If someone is suffering from an opioid overdose, naloxone can reverse life-threatening symptoms like slowed or stopped breathing. However, naloxone does not affect overdoses caused by non-opioid drugs. 

How is naloxone administered?

Naloxone is available in nasal sprays and injectables. To administer pre-packaged naloxone nasal sprays, you insert the nozzle into one nostril of the person experiencing an overdose and press down on the sides of the package to spray the drug. 

A common misconception is that administering naloxone immediately and permanently resolves the health risks from the opioid overdose. This is not the case. If administered in time, naloxone will reverse an overdose for 30 to 90 minutes. However, the effects of the opioids could still threaten the health of the patient after this period. If you administer naloxone, call emergency responders so the patient can receive additional medical care as needed. 

How is it handled and stored safely?

It’s safe to store naloxone at room temperature, between 68°F and 77 °F. Do not store naloxone in areas where it will be exposed to extreme heat or cold, like a refrigerator, car glove box, or attic. 

If you store your naloxone properly, it will last between 18 and 24 months on the shelf

Handle naloxone the same way you would any other medicine. Observe safety precautions, especially while using injectable naloxone, to avoid infections and additional risks. Keep naloxone out of the reach of small children and pets. 

Community overdose prevention efforts through education

Educating the community about the opioid crisis and what they can do to fight it goes a long way toward preventing overdoses. That’s why the harm reduction efforts include training for community members on opioids and naloxone. 

Why naloxone education matters for communities 

Despite the prevalence of the opioid crisis in the news, many people still don’t know what naloxone is or how it works. Naloxone education helps ensure that community members are aware of this life-saving medication and how they can use it to save someone suffering from an opioid overdose. 

There’s still a stigma around treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD), and educating community members about naloxone can help break down this stigma. It’s also important to educate the community about naloxone to prevent life-threatening abuse of the drug. 

For example, although so-called “Narcan parties” were a common urban myth among the younger population, it slowly became a commonplace practice. At these gatherings, attendees had easy access to Narcan in case of an accidental overdose. This practice introduced dangerous habits, such as carelessly ingesting opioids with the hopes of reversing its effects with Narcan.

Greater education about the risks of opioid overdose and how to use naloxone may curb these worrying gatherings.

What does training entail for community members? 

Naloxone training typically includes information on what naloxone is, where to get it, and how to safely administer it. Community members who go through this training learn how to identify the signs of an opioid overdose so they can promptly administer naloxone. Some in-person naloxone training sessions may provide free overdose response kits that include naloxone. 

How does access to this harm reduction resource benefit communities?

Naloxone training and greater availability of the drug help communities work together to prevent opioid overdoses. Research has shown that access to naloxone and education about opioid overdoses reduces fatal overdoses. Beyond the direct impact of saving people experiencing opioid overdoses, these harm reduction methods also build stronger communities that break down the stigma associated with opioid use. Over time, reducing stigma will also save lives by making it easier for people to access the OUD treatment they need. 

Resources for NYS 

Naloxone resources and training are available across New York State, from New York City to Upstate NY. Find resources in your area and learn more about the harm reduction measures in place in your community to be a part of the solution. 

NYC resources

You may be wondering where to get Narcan in NYC. There are dozens of opioid overdose prevention programs across the five boroughs that specifically offer Narcan training in NYC and/or naloxone kits. Additionally, Governor Kathy Hocul signed legislation that requires public colleges in NYC to have opioid antagonists like naloxone available in campus housing.

Several NYC departments created the Narcan Behind Every Bar campaign to make nightlife in NYC safer. This campaign provides naloxone plus additional training and resources to bars and other nightlife businesses across the city. While the majority of overdoses do occur in private homes, making Narcan NYC resources available can help save those who may overdose in nightlife settings. 

Upstate NY/statewide resources

Several rural areas of NY State suffer even higher rates of fatal overdoses than NYC. Accessing treatment is often more difficult in these areas since there may not be providers within a reasonable distance. That’s why statewide and local resources for fighting the opioid epidemic are so important in NY State. 

Knowing how to administer Narcan can become a lifesaving and valuable tool, especially in rural areas where medical centers can be sparse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer educational training videos on how to administer injectable Narcan safely and effectively. At Ophelia, we guide viewers on how to administer the Narcan nasal spray through our training video, making education accessible.  

The New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute launched the Naloxone Co-payment Assistance Program (N-CAP). This program helps New Yorkers access naloxone with low to no out-of-pocket expenses without a prescription at participating N-CAP pharmacies. You don’t even need to enroll to participate in the New York Narcan program. New York State residents can also order naloxone and fentanyl test strips for free through the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports. 

There are also innovative harm reduction vending machines across New York State. These NYC vending machines distribute Narcan as well as fentanyl test strips and xylazine test trips for free. Currently, there are 15 of these vending machines across the state. The vending machines are available 24/7, so anyone can request three items per transaction. Find them near treatment organizations, public health departments, and housing agencies. 

Ophelia’s role

The opioid crisis isn’t going to go away on its own. It will take dedication from community members, officials, and addiction professionals to save lives and reduce the threat of opioid overdoses. Providing naloxone training and increasing access to naloxone are powerful harm reduction methods that create meaningful change.

Ophelia also has a key role to play in the fight against the opioid crisis. As an OUD treatment provider, Ophelia helps those dealing with OUD overcome their symptoms so they can lead happier, healthier lives. These treatment programs are available online through Ophelia, breaking down barriers to care and making it easier for people to get the treatment they need.

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