Cleveland’s addiction and recovery community praises FDA’s approval of over-the-counter Narcan

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 10:50 PM EDT
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RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio (WOIO) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s announcement that Narcan would soon be sold over the counter was met with relief in Ohio and greater Cleveland, where drug overdoses have reached alarming levels.

“It is needed. I thank God that it finally happened,” said LaVance Lining, Sr.

Lining, of Richmond Heights, is a recovering cocaine addict of nearly 18 years. He started using in 1984 when he was 17.

“I used [cocaine] on weekends, then it became Tuesday and Thursday. Then it became today, tonight, and tomorrow,” he said. “I became a full-blown addict. I was the last one to know I was addicted.”

Lining supports the widespread availability of naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, which is the only version of the overdose antidote approved by the FDA for over-the-counter sale so far.

The approved nasal spray from Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Emergent BioSolutions is the best-known form of naloxone.

It can reverse overdoses of opioids, including street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl, and prescription versions including oxycodone.

More than 5,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2021, the last year of full reporting in the State of Ohio. That same year, nearly 600 people died in Cuyahoga County alone, for an average of 1.5 per day.

“I knew several people and several people that were friend of people I was close with in recovery that died, one from fentanyl very recently,” said Lining, who began working as a stand-up comedian around the same time he started using drugs.

He now uses his comedy to spread a positive message in a light-hearted way. He performs in prisons and speaks at drug and alcohol treatment centers.

Lining is launching a podcast this week called The Silver Lining Recovery Solutions Show, in hopes of helping others.

He said it will be available on Saturday on most podcasting platforms.

Making naloxone available more widely is seen as a key strategy to control the nationwide overdose crisis, which has been linked to more than 100,000 U.S. deaths a year. The majority of those deaths are tied to opioids, primarily potent synthetic versions such as fentanyl that can take multiple doses of naloxone to reverse.

“It’s a really important announcement. We’ve been advocating for increased access for years. By making this an over-the-counter medication, people are able to go get it from their drug store,” said Beth Zietlow-DeJesus with the Alcohol, Drug Addiction, Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County. “Making sure they have it when someone is in crisis is the easiest way to help save the life. The faster the response, the more effective the Narcan is.”

The drug has been distributed to police and other first responders nationwide.

Advocates believe it’s important to get naloxone to the people who are most likely to be around overdoses, including people who use drugs and their relatives.

“Think about it like having a fire extinguisher if there were a fire. You can respond,” Zietlow-DeJesus said. “Nobody thinks they’re going to have a fire in their home. Nobody wants a fire in their home. But if they have a fire extinguisher, they have the ability to put it out. Nobody thinks they’re going to know somebody who’s going to have an overdose... Narcan is like that fire extinguisher. It helps them respond immediately in that crisis.”

The FDA said the timetable and cost of Narcan over the counter will be decided by the manufacturer.

Learn how to administer naloxone by clicking here.

For more information on harm reduction related to drug use, click here.