The Biden Administration today announced it is launching a media marketing blitz to promote the fentanyl overdose drug naloxone.
The national campaign – part of a $46billion crackdown on the fentanyl epidemic – will target young people through social media videos and digital billboards.
It will use online influencers like college athletes and ‘lifestyle content creators’ to urge people to keep the nasal spray to hand in case they or a friend overdose.
The seven-word slogan of the campaign is: ‘Carry naloxone. You could save a life.’ It comes after a record 75,000 Americans died from fentanyl overdoses in 2022, the equivalent of 1,500 American lives lost every week.
But the new campaign has drawn a wave of criticism from lawmakers and other opponents who have accused the Government of putting the onus on young Americans instead of clamping down on border control and drug dealers.
Florida Gators football star Clifford Taylor IV promoted Narcan on his Instagram as part of the new social media blitz
This ad is one of many that will be on college campuses and in bars and restaurants.
Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, is a nasal spray shown to quickly reverse an opioid overdose by blocking fentanyl’s path to the brain
Fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic opioid, is causing carnage on the streets of Portland, Oregon. The drug has flooded into the US, initially along the East Coast but the steepest rises are now being seen in the west
‘America’s fentanyl crisis has become so bad that DC is now placing Narcan and fentanyl test trips in vending machines.
‘Biden and the Democrats have the tools to end this crisis but refuse to lift a finger.
‘We need our border secured. Now,’ Arizona Republican Representative Andy Biggs wrote on Twitter.
Fentanyl, which is flooding into the US from Mexico and China, has become the leading cause of death for those aged 18 to 49, surpassing guns and car accidents.
The NIH estimated fentanyl-related deaths in young people increased by 182 percent from 2019 to 2021.
The potent synthetic opioid is 50 times stronger than heroin and 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is used by doctors for patients in serious pain or with terminal illnesses.
It is cheap, highly addictive, relatively easy to smuggle into the US, and cost effective for dealers to mix it into their supplies, which saves them money and can extend or boost the high experienced by users.
The new Biden Administration campaign has drawn a wave of criticism from lawmakers and other opponents who have accused the Government of putting the onus on young Americans instead of clamping down on border control and drug dealers.
Deaths caused by fentanyl in the US surged in the 2010s. At the start of the decade, 2,666 Americans died of a fentanyl overdose. This figure shot up to 19,413 by 2016. Covid made the situation worse, with a record 72,484 deaths recorded in 2021, followed by another record of 75,000 deaths last year
Narcan is administered nasally and comes in a single dose. This graphic shows how to give it to someone suspected of overdosing
According to the US Customs and Border Protection, the vast majority of fentanyl goes into the US through legal ports of entry, in vehicles
But it takes a vanishingly small dose of fentanyl to cause a fatal overdose Just two milligrams, the equivalent of five grains of salt, is enough to cause death.
Because it is cut into other popular drugs, many people who die of overdoses do not know they are taking fentanyl.
The drug has been partially blamed for America’s sharp fall in life-expectancy over the past three years. It’s now found in everything from cocaine to molly and street benzodiazepines like Xanax.
Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, is a nasal spray shown to quickly reverse an opioid overdose by blocking the opioid’s path to the brain, which reverses adverse effects such as hypoventilation.
When Narcan is inhaled, the medicine is absorbed by mucous membranes in the nose, which allows it to enter the bloodstream quickly.
From there, it moves to the brain and blocks the drug from attaching to the brain’s receptors.
It has been shown to prevent fatal overdoses from fentanyl, as well as drugs such as oxycodone and heroin.
Narcan comes in a single dose, so if someone needs multiple doses, a new container must be used.
The drug was initially produced in India and China and mailed to recipients across North America. Makeshift labs have since sprung up in Mexico to receive the precursor chemicals from Asia, mix them or press them into pills, and smuggle them into the US
The fentanyl crisis has helped fuel the steep drop in American life expectancy in recent years. Americans now live 76.4 years on average, down from 78.8 years in 2019. In the UK, which suffered the Covid pandemic just as the US did, but does not suffer a fentanyl crisis, life expectancy slightly increased from 81.3 years in 2019 to 81.52 in 2021.
Narcan has an extremely high success rate. A study from Brigham and Women’s hospital found that 94 percent of people who were given naloxone survived their overdose.
In a study from Harm Reduction Journal, more than 90 percent of participants were worried that a single box of Narcan would not be enough for a successful reversal. However, 95 percent of overdose events were prevented.
It was approved last month by the FDA for over the counter use, which means it will become widely available by the end of the summer – from vending machines to big box stores.
Narcan’s manufacturer has not specified an exact price point for the drug, but estimates range from $22 all the way up to $141 depending on location and insurance. It can be sold either in packs of one or two.
Launching the public health campaign today, Biden’s drug czar Dr Rahul Gupta said: ‘We know that the majority of adolescent overdose deaths had one or more bystanders nearby, and that’s why today’s announcement is so critical—we are meeting young people where they are to prevent drug poisonings being driven by illicit fentanyl and ensure they know how they can save a life with Naloxone.
‘This campaign builds on President Biden’s whole-of-government approach to beat the overdose epidemic by working to get Naloxone into all communities and dismantle drug trafficking operations producing lethal substances like fentanyl.
‘Our message is simple: Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose, it’s easy to use, and it’s available without a prescription in all 50 states.
‘Even if young people or their friends don’t use drugs, carrying Naloxone could help them save a life in the event of an overdose.’
In addition to social media, the campaign will also release advertisements in locations such as college campuses, bars, restaurants, and gas stations.
In the 12-months ending in August 2022, emergency medical services responded to 396,312 activations nationwide that involved the use of Narcan.
Narcan still comes at a cost in many locations. It can be covered by insurance, but coverage depends on the specific plan. You may need a prior authorization before insurance will cover it. Though not available over the counter until the end of summer, it is available to purchase from a pharmacist in all 50 states.
Coupons and assistance tools for affording Narcan can be used, depending on insurance.