(NewsNation) — Facing a drug epidemic that killed over 100,000 people in 2021, bars and restaurants across the country are stocking the overdose reversal drug naloxone, commonly referred to by the brand name Narcan.
The drug recently became available over the counter at pharmacies, too, following approval from the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year. It’s sold at Walgreens, CVS and Walmart for around $45.
At Four Pegs bar in Louisville, Kentucky, it sits behind the hostess stand. At a coffee shop, you can find it in the bathroom.
Shreeta Waldon is executive director of the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition, a group that routinely passes out fentanyl test strips and free boxes of Narcan to local bars and restaurants.
“The more that we educated people, they were like, ‘I think someone was overdosing, I think they were in the state of overdose, and I didn’t have anything,'” Waldon said.
What you should know about over-the-counter Narcan
The mission to arm the nation’s restaurants and bars is expanding across the country as the drug overdose epidemic continues to worsen, fueled by drugs like fentanyl responsible for over 150 overdose deaths a day.
In New Orleans, bartenders were recently given a kit with Narcan and trained to spot a potential drug overdose. In Nashville, more than two dozen bars now have emergency boxes with video instructions for administering Narcan.
A similar effort is underway in Florida, where Project Opioid hands out the nasal spray to restaurants in downtown Orlando.
“We have a fire extinguisher and a fire, we want all the staff to know how to use the fire extinguisher, and this kind of goes right in line with that,” said business owner Scott Kotroba.
An estimated 109,680 overdose deaths occurred last year, according to numbers released in May by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s about 2% more than the 107,622 U.S. overdose deaths in 2021, but nothing like the 30% increase seen in 2020 and 15% increase in 2021.
The synthetic opioid fentanyl has been a driving factor behind the increase. Drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than tripled from 2016 to 2021 in the United States, according to data from the CDC.