New York City, like all major cities, has a drug problem. The drug problem leads to overdoses that, in most cases, lead to death. In New York City, one resident dies from a drug overdose every three hours according to city statistics. The number of deaths is high because of the infamous synthetic opioid, fentanyl, which has led to the continued high rates of drug overdoses. In an effort to save the lives of those who suffer overdoses in nightlife establishments, Mayor Eric Adams passed a law last year that would make medical kits with opioid overdose-reversing drug, Narcan, available. Narcan is the brand name for the drug naloxone.
The bill was introduced by City Council members Chi Osse and Keith Powers. “This is an overdue measure that will, simply, save lives,” said Councilmember Ossé in a press statement. “Each overdose death is a preventable tragedy; we do not accept them here in New York City.”
Narcan Behind Every Bar
The Mayor’s Office of Nightlife will work in tandem with the Department of Health to run the Narcan Behind Every Bar campaign. The medical kits will be available at bars and nightlife establishments. Narcan is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It is typically administered by first responders. The relevant stakeholders and staff members will receive training on how to properly administer Narcan. “While the fentanyl overdose crisis is not exclusive to nightlife venues, accounting for less than 1% of cases, we see these spaces as places where people can look out for and protect each other,” said Ariel Palitz, executive director at the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife.
The Benefits of Narcan
Elena Rotov is a Narcan coordinator and patient navigator at the After Hours Project, a community-based non-profit in Brooklyn. She is well-versed in Narcan and spoke about it with Gothamist. “It’s just scientifically proven to be most effective,” she said. “The absolute need to know is that it’s safe to use on anybody,” she added. “You’re not going to get in trouble for using it, but you should only use it on somebody who’s unresponsive.” Rotov saw the positive in having Narcan in nightlife establishments, but she called for it to be made available everywhere, including places such as McDonald’s and KFC because an overdose could happen anywhere.
The Scourge of Fentanyl
The drug overdose crisis has been driven by fentanyl. It is used to mix other drugs, but the problem is its high potency. It is 100 times more potent than morphine. Statistics released by the New York State Comptroller’s office for 2021 show that fentanyl and other synthetic opioids account for nearly 80% of deaths related to drug overdoses. In that year, more people died from drug overdoses than in any other year since city officials started tracking incidents of deaths. “These deaths are heartbreaking and many, if not most, are absolutely preventable,” Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said in a statement. “As a city, we must use every evidence-based tool at our disposal to reach people with services and – most of all – support and compassion.”