By Buddy Blouin

An ongoing threat to the American way of life persists, and the U.S. military is far from immune to it. Fentanyl, when used properly, can be a part of various medical procedures. However, on the streets, it’s being used to cut batches, provide intense highs for a lower cost, and ultimately, poison users who typically seek other drugs but unknowingly take the opioid as well. Now, the U.S. military is looking to provide Naloxone (Narcan) to active duty members while concurrently looking at data related to overdoses in the military.

Editors Note: For the purposes of this article, Naloxone and Narcan are used interchangeably.

What Is Narcan?

Narcan is a brand of Naloxone used to reverse the effects of overdosing on opioids. A popular method is the nasal spray, which is available over the counter, to help someone who either willingly or unknowingly took opioids. This is a common issue for users who accidentally take fentanyl while seeking alternative substances.

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How Does Narcan Work?

If someone is overdosing on opioids, like fentanyl, Naloxone nasal spray can be applied to halt the effects and help that person begin breathing again. Used in emergency situations, Narcan isn’t for someone who has not taken opioids as it won’t work unless they have.

Furthermore, medical attention should still be sought following the incident as Naloxone may be helpful for a shorter period of time in which the opioids are active. Because there are options out there, more and more people are calling for access to this life-saving medication. This includes those within the military community.

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New Law Means the U.S. Military Will Track Drug Overdoses

Within the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Department of Defense Overdose Data (DOD) Act was brought to life. The FDA approved military use of 10 mg Naloxone to help with overdoses and it’s now being implemented by the DoD.

The U.S. military is also going to begin more rigorous tracking of overdoses within each branch. Up until now, the reporting and tracking has been far less scientific. The DoD will now have data on overdoses, including the type of drug used and whether or not it was accidental or intentional.

Some of the data reported to the DoD will involve where the overdose occurred, the demographic of those involved, the service member’s mental health treatment history, and their prescription drug history.

These changes have been years in the making following a 2022 Rolling Stone report highlighting overdoses at Fort Bragg, now Fort Liberty. Along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval of Naloxone the same year, many lawmakers were mounting pressure for better policies from The Pentagon.

Compared to other drugs, fentanyl is far more potent. It’s a synthetic opioid that has been around for decades in medical settings. However, recent years have seen a spike in its use in the street for recreational purposes.

For many, overdoses are an accident. Users will purchase another drug and unknowingly take the substance that contains fentanyl. This is a particularly dangerous prospect for military-aged persons, as fentanyl can be 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.

This, among other factors, highlights the importance of Naloxone access for active duty members. It’s a sign of positive change for the U.S. military, but even with a move in the right direction, some are noting the timeline isn’t quite fast enough.

Yes, all troops will have access to Narcan, but the plan to do so isn’t going to be finished until 2025. This means that there is give or take at least a year in between where many users may need such resources. Fentanyl test strips to check drugs before use were not included in the new measures.

How to Get Narcan While Serving in the Military

Although the U.S. military is working to provide better access to Naloxone, the details are still not ironed out. Sadly, this is a problem for those who are at risk and in need of the lifesaving drug.

Furthermore, while leaders are still working out how to distribute Narcan to troops, the program is also going to be required to include a tracking system.

While it may help the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) better service those transitioning out of service, this is an obvious problem for anyone who might fear repercussions for using the medication while still on active duty.

Regardless of how you feel about drugs, the problem won’t magically disappear. Having access to the right resources can help those overdosing prevent a premature death. Likewise, if you know a loved one who uses drugs, you may be able to save their life.

When there are lives on the line, action matters. Waiting around means fewer resources and more deaths. Here’s how you can get Naloxone while serving in the military:

Over The Counter

The FDA has approved Narcan nasal spray for over-the-counter use. This means you can find it at your local pharmacy in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and in Puerto Rico. In many cases, two doses can run less than $50 but are priceless considering you can save a family member or friend.

Check Your State’s Department of Health

If you are stationed in Delaware, Iowa, or Ohio, you have access to free Naloxone. Each of these states provides programs to help make the medication more accessible. Reaching out to your state’s Department of Health can help you best understand your options.

Connect With Local Resources

Across the country in cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Houston, and more, you’ll find libraries and non-profits giving out Narcan. Tapping into local resources, and giving back when you can, is one of the best ways to not only be aware of your options but also find access to free Nalozone to help those suffering.

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