Alabama Narcan vending machine sparks debate on social media

Last week, a nonprofit in Walker County, Alabama, installed the state’s first Narcan vending machine, which offers free naloxone as a nasal spray or as an intramuscular injection. Organizers behind the project say Walker County, which has a population of fewer than 65,000 people, has one of the highest rates of overdoses in the U.S. They hope to bring additional Narcan vending machines to other parts of the county to prevent overdose deaths. This sparked debate on social media, with some social media users voicing support for the vending machine and others suggesting that free Narcan enables drug use.


As this initiative expands and gains further attention, public health officials may face questions about how naloxone works and how the availability of harm reduction tools affects communities. Debunking messaging may emphasize that naloxone does not increase drug use—in fact, research shows that educating people who use drugs about naloxone results in decreased drug use. Additional messaging may emphasize that naloxone is the only way to reverse an opioid overdose. Partner organizations may benefit from supporting materials on the signs of overdose and information on the rates of opioid overdose in specific communities or states.