Feb 18, 2022 - News

Iowa gives naloxone to restaurants and bars in fight against opioids

A Narcan kit

Narcan, a nasal spray that delivers opioid-overdose antidote naloxone. Photo: Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Iowa Department of Public Health is giving naloxone kits to restaurants, bars and community organizations to try and curb the rise in overdose deaths happening nationwide.

Why it matters: "Minutes could mean the difference between life and death for an individual," said Kevin Gabbert, the state's opioid initiatives director.

  • 434 Iowans were reported to have died from drug overdoses between June 2020 and June 2021 — a 4% increase from the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

State of play: Iowa launched a new initiative this week that provides naloxone spray kits to certain businesses and organizations that request them.

  • Eligible places include gas stations, restaurants, bars, libraries, event venues and community service providers.
  • It's funded through the State Opioid Response Grant and IDPH ships them out for free.

How it works: Naloxone is a rapid-working medicine that reverses an overdose by "ejecting" opioids from receptor sites on the brain.

  • Breathing typically returns in just two to three minutes.

Between the lines: Two-thirds of overdose deaths nationwide involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to an analysis over a 12-year period ending last September.

  • Fentanyl is cheaper and oftentimes much stronger, but people may be unaware it’s cut into their drugs, contributing to overdoses.

The bottom line: Some critics have shared baseless claims that increasing naloxone's availability can lead to more drug use.

  • But Gabbert points out that people struggling with drug addiction will never even get the chance to rehabilitate if they die from an overdose.

Where to find it: Businesses and organizations interested in receiving a kit can contact RaChel Greenwood from IDPH at [email protected].


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