By the end of this year more than 3,000 people are expected to die from opioid overdoses.

With opioid overdose deaths continuing to rise since the start of the pandemic, there’s a new call to expand the availability of naloxone, the overdose antidote drug that brings users back from the brink of death.

Caitlin O’Neill, the director of harm reduction services for the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition said everyone in the Garden State can now legally possess and carry naloxone without a prescription, which is a positive development, but there’s a problem.

It's expensive

She said while pharmacies in affluent neighborhoods usually carry naloxone “the cost of the nasal spray Narcan is around $120 to $150 for 2 doses, so clearly that puts a limit on who can afford to purchase it.”

She said the issue is “what we were seeing and still see is lack of naloxone in communities of color, in neighborhoods that are deeply impacted by the drug war.”

How important is getting more naloxone into communities across the state?

“It is the most critically important piece in keeping people alive through the overdose crisis," she said. "Naloxone needs to be inexpensive, over the counter and accessible so that nobody has to think twice about carrying it.”

We don't have time to waste

She noted having ample supplies of naloxone in areas with high drug use is especially important now because “fentanyl is here, it’s dangerous.”

“Fentanyl acts quick so we have to act quick, we don’t have time to wait and see if people can figure out what’s going on, we need to act quick.”

She said recent New Jersey Department of Human Services Free Naloxone Giveaways were a good place to start but “what we believe is that in order for it to be effective, it needs to be free naloxone day every day, right now it is a public health emergency and we need to keep people alive.”

O’Neill pointed out her coalition will provide free, inter-muscular naloxone to anyone who needs it for themselves or someone else they are worried about, by calling 1-877-4-NARCAN.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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