Narcan Lock Boxes Could Help Fight Opioid Crisis in Cambridge

A new way of fighting the opiod crisis could put a lifesaving drug in the hands of bystanders in one Massachusetts city.

Lock boxes filled with Narcan have already been tested in Central Square in Cambridge and those behind the idea say the results so far, are promising.

The innovative approach was developed by engineers with the support of the Cambridge Police Department and by research doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Officials say with time of the essence, the boxes could make all the difference by turning bystanders into heroes.

“Opiates act quickly with the new synthetics on the market they work within seconds,” said Dr. Scott Goldberg, who is leading the study.

The lock boxes would be used when someone calls 911 to report an overdose. The dispatcher would then give the person directions to the closest box and a four digit code to open it. The bystander would then be given directions on how to administer the drug that comes in a nasal spray.

Deputy Superintendent Jack Albert of the Cambridge Police Department says they have responded to nearly 300 calls for overdoses over the last year. Twenty nine of those calls have turned out fatal.

While all of the officers carry Narcan, Albert says having bystanders administer it first could save time and make a difference.

“If they’re administering narcan before we get there, then we’re getting them to the hospital that much sooner,” Albert said.

More than 50 bystanders stopped to administer the drug during the first experiment in Central Square. The test was the first step in what will be a long process of prototypes and pilots before they hope a proposal will lead to a roll out.

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