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Could expanded access to heroin overdose antidote in New York lead to more drug abuse?

Payne Horning
Wayne Drugs manager Jamie Branshaw said he is debating whether to offer Narcan, which is a heroin overdose antidote, because he thinks making it more available could lead to increased use of the drug.

In the state's latest attempt to combat the heroin epidemic, officials are expanding access to a drug overdose antidote to ensure more New Yorkers can access the potentially life saving medicine. 

Naloxone, more commonly referred to as Narcan, is now available without a prescription at 750 independent pharmacies and chain pharmacies. That's in addition to the 480 CVS and 460 Walgreens pharmacies that were approved to offer Narcan without a prescription earlier this year.

Oswego's Wayne Drugs manager Jamie Branshaw praised the state's action.

"New York state's definitely in the right direction reversing those overdoses with something as useful as Naloxone," Branshaw said. "It really as no other effects on the body other than blocking or reversing out the opioid itself."

Branshaw said Wayne Drugs is applying for approval to join the program, but whether they decide to ultimately offer the drug is still up for debate. He fears that increasing the accessibility to the overdose antidote could encourage more people to use heroin.

"Will that serve to take away some of the fear of utilizing heroin because of the potential for overdose," Branshaw asked. "Do the users realize that the reversal, the Naloxone, is more readily available so they can experiment with higher doses?"

State health department officials say that is just a myth and that the increased availability of Narcan in New York has already saved thousands of lives.