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NYC Making Overdose-Reversal Drug Available Without Prescription

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- After an uptick in heroin overdoses, New York City is making an overdose-reversing drug available without a prescription.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett announced Monday she has issued an order making naloxone, or Narcan, available at certain pharmacies in the city for about $40, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

"Most overdoses are witnessed," Bassett said at a news conference. "I wrote this prescription because I want anyone who uses or anyone who spends time around someone who uses to have naloxone on hand. That's the way you can save a life and give a person a chance to recover."

Mayor Bill de Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray were also part of the announcement after they met with people in recovery on Staten Island, a place that seen a rise in opioid use like nowhere else in the country.

Bassett said the rate of opioid overdose deaths has reached crisis levels -- more than two per day. Unintentional opioid-involved overdose deaths have increased by 56 percent nationwide in five years.

Nelson Natal said he isn't surprised by the high number of overdose deaths. He started taking oxycodone following obesity-related surgeries and found himself deeply addicted. Then his sister died from an oxy and heroin overdose.

"I was eating it like candy," he told CBS2's Emily Smith. "It was no longer as needed. It was basically to get high."

James Brenker, 21, a recovering heroin addict, told reporters that naloxone saved not only his own life, but he also used the antidote to save a friend.

"My friend overdosed right in front of me," Brenker said. "If I didn't have that kit on me, the EMS said he would have died."

Narcan isn't anything new. Addiction Care Intervention's Warren Zysman said it's been in first responders' hands in the form of a needle, but now it can now be administered as a nasal spray. It works the same way an EpiPen resolves an allergic reaction.

"It's such a simple, quick process that can sustain life," Zysman said.

Narcan won't stop the addiction, and there is concern the quick fix could encourage drug use. But it can save a life and give an addict a chance to recover.

"I've been a cocaine addict, I've been a prescription drug addict, been a marijuana addict," one man told Smith. "The fact that it's cost effective is a brilliant thing."

Narcan is available now in most drug stores, including CVS and Duane Reade. Each kit can be used just once and is meant to be administered while waiting for the paramedics.

To find a pharmacy that carries it, call 311.

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