Vending Machines Designed To Prevent Overdose Has Stopped Fentanyl-Related Deaths

People have been reading stories about deaths from drug overdose. The most common and problematic drug out there right now is one that’s called fentanyl.

So, the researchers were looking for ways to prevent this and saw a simple idea could help one of society’s biggest issues.

A Cincinnati health center thought about filling a vending machine with overdose prevention equipment and asked a university to keep track on the number of times it’s been used. From February to November in 2021, a call center was able to register a total of 637 anonymous people for the program giving individuals an access code to the vending machine. The contents were then distributed and they saw that 3,360 naloxone doses and 10,155 fentanyl test strips were utilized.

The said machine is found in Hamilton County, Ohio. Many have credited it for being able to lower drug overdose deaths as well as HIV incidence. The machine is currently operating at the Caracole HIV/AIDS treatment center.

Daniel Arendt is a University of Cincinnati scientist who studies the effects of the machine. He described the method as “harm reduction.” He also acknowledged the fact that there are those who have always used drugs, and probably always will no matter if they get these in large doses that could actually be lethal to health and life.

Harm reduction, as per the Univ. of Cincinnati press release, is a paradigm that “does not support or enable drug use, but instead aims to empathetically meet people where they are in the course of their drug use and help empower them to take steps which minimize the potential hazards associated with its use.”

Because it was meant to save lives, the program participants were able to make use of the vending machine all day, every day, and away from curious eyes and judgmental looks of people around.

Naloxone, a drug found in the machine, is able to counteract opioid overdoses. The test strips that are also there are able to test drugs, such as heroin, because many of these have been known to contain fentanyl. The machine is also equipped with safe injection kits, tourniquets, and bandages.

The idea of the machine was first conceived, constructed, and operated by Caracole, an HIV/AIDS service organization found in Cincinnati. They were able to do this with the kind help of their non-profit partner called Interact for Health.

“If you are interested in stopping, we’re here to help,” said Arendt. “But if not, we aren’t going to turn you away and refuse to help. We are going to work with you and help you take steps that will help keep you safe.”

Some of the results that the researchers have seen are very good. At the time the study was published, clients were able to report a total of 288 overdoses that had been reversed with the help of naloxone. By the time they wrote the report, the number went up to a thousand. More than two-thirds of those who reenrolled in the program detected fentanyl present in the drugs that they had been using, which is already considered alarming.

“You would never tell someone who has wildly uncontrolled diabetes to get their blood sugar in check before we will help them or give them insulin,” Arendt explained.

“So it is critical to recognize that substance use is not a moral failing, and it’s not this thing that should be stigmatized. Instead, we can acknowledge that drug use is becoming increasingly risky, and we can use that recognition to help spur the development of new, innovative methods of providing people with the care, services and support that they need, no strings attached,” he added

Vending machines of this kind contain data of the use in Europe. The numbers show that these have actually been extremely helpful. As for Arendt’s data, this is actually the first research done in the U.S. even when similar machines were located in Las Vegas and Puerto Rico. Experts can only hope that the vending machines will be made available everywhere else, especially in areas where drug use runs rampant. This can help save lives and hopefully, turn many people around and inspire them to do better for themselves.


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