The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has distributed over 719,000 units of naloxone to state agencies throughout North Carolina to help curb the ongoing opioid crisis, and the medication is available at Duke and in Durham.
In North Carolina, 4,041 people died from drug overdose in 2021, a record high number of overdose deaths in a single year. This figure represents a 22% increase in overdose deaths from the previous year.
According to an NCDHHS release, the rise in overdose deaths is “driven by illegally manufactured fentanyl,” with fentanyl accounting for more than 77% of the total overdose fatalities in 2021.
Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a medication that can be administered to someone experiencing an overdose. The drug rapidly reverses the effects of opioids such as OxyContin, fentanyl, Methadone, heroin and Vicodin.
Naxalone can be found at many pharmacies across North Carolina. Individual pharmacies can decide whether to dispense the drug. Naloxone Saves, a harm reduction resource site, created a map indicating which North Carolina pharmacies distribute naxalone. The nearest locations to Duke are Harris Teeter on Hillsborough Road, Main Street Pharmacy and Gurley's Pharmacy Inc.
Naloxone is also available at the Duke Outpatient Pharmacy, Duke Children's Health Center Pharmacy, Duke Cancer Center Specialty Pharmacy and the Durham County Department of Public Health. The Duke University Hospital says it serves as “a key partner” in local naloxone outreach.
The Duke Campus Center Pharmacy offers Narcan for all Duke students with no prescription required, according to Director of Student Health John Vaughn.
“There is no cost to students who are on the Duke Student Health insurance plan. If a student has another health insurance plan, they will have to check their policy for coverage information. The out-of-pocket cost (without using insurance) is around $43,” Vaughn wrote in an email.
Although naloxone can be obtained from a pharmacy without a traditional prescription, it “cannot be included in the Wellness Vending Machine in the Bryan Center because … it is technically dispensed as a prescription under a standing order from the North Carolina Medical Director," Vaughn wrote.
As a result of a 2015 revision to the state Good Samaritan Law, which governs criminal prosecution, naloxone became dispensable by pharmacies in North Carolina with a doctor’s standing order, rather than by traditional individual prescription. In 2016, former governor Pat McCrory signed into law a statewide standing order for naloxone, which allows eligible people to get naloxone at their pharmacy without needing their doctor to provide a prescription.
A standing order serves as an “issued prescription from a prescriber,” which means that naloxone is still not available over-the-counter.
How to use naxalone
To reverse an opioid overdose, the first step is to recognize the signs that one is overdosing. Signs include unresponsiveness, not breathing, turning blue or pale, deep snoring, vomiting, gasping or gurgling.
If you suspect the person has taken an opioid, you should respond as if they are experiencing an opioid overdose. Make a fist and rub your knuckles down the front of their rib cage up and down. If they do not wake up, continue with the following steps, according to Naxalone Saves:
1. Call 911
2. Administer naxalone: Naxalone Saves has videos on how to give someone naxalone by injection and how to administer intranasal naxalone.
3. Perform rescue breathing: Turn the person on their side and remove any blockages from airways. Then, with the person laying on their back, tilt their head back, pinch their nose and give one breath every five seconds.
4: Put the person in recovery position: Turn the person on their side with their body supported by bent knees, hand under their head and faced turned to the side.
5: Stay with the person until help arrives: According to Naxalone Saves, if you called 911, provided your name to law enforcement and didn’t call during an arrest or search by police then you may be protected under the Good Samaritan Law.
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Audrey Patterson is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter of The Chronicle's 118th volume.