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Walgreens To Begin Selling Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Slumped over at traffic stops, overdosing off of opioids with their children strapped in the backseat. Sadly, we've seen these images play out not only in Chicago, but also across the country.

The opioid epidemic is being called the deadliest drug crisis in American history. Nearly 2,000 people in Illinois died of an opioid overdose in 2016. In fact, opioid drug overdoses killed more people than homicides in the state.

Furthermore, as CBS 2's Charlie De Mar reports, one in five patients will become addicted from an initial 10-day prescription.

"I've overdosed three times, and it's saved my life three times," Nicholas Popinski said.

Popinksi is here today because of Naloxone, also known as Narcan, medicine that can reverse the effects of an overdose from opioid drugs or heroin within seconds.

"I had got the nasal spray Narcan, and I was at home one day and I had it on top of my fridge, and I did a lot of heroin. I did a few bags, and, you know, I was nodding off pretty bad, so my dad grabbed it and hit me with the Narcan."

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Dr. Dan Lustig, president and CEO of Haymarket Center, a Chicago-based addiction treatment facility, said, "This actually signifies, I think, a significant step in the battle that we have with this epidemic."

Dr. Lustig, who is also an addiction expert, applauds Walgreens' decision to sell the life-saving drug over-the-counter at more than 8,000 stores in 45 states.

"First and foremost, it gives families a fighting chance to save loved ones," he says.

Cory Clark's friend recently overdosed on heroin in his bathroom. She lived, but Clark said he wishes he had Narcan available at the time.

"I want to save people's lives, and if I have another friend that's right there and they need it, whether it's a friend or a total stranger, I'm going to save their life," Clark said.

However, some say this gives people a false sense of security and may even encourage drug use.

"Yes, that might be true, but what has to be said is we, as a field and as a country, have never seen the amount of  deaths that we have from this medical disorder," Dr. Lustig said.

Due to regulations, there are five states that don't allow for the sale of Narcan to be over-the-counter. The nasal spray can be covered by insurance, or is available for purchase for about $130.

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