Free Naloxone Now Available In Chicago Gas Stations

Gas stations are places of convenience that people visit to fuel up their vehicles and grab snacks on the go. But now, in Chicago, they are becoming something more - a lifeline for those battling opioid addiction. That's because as of December 2023, the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone is available for free at select gas stations in the city.

Increased Access to Naloxone

During the end of 2023, officials in Chicago started a pilot program to make Naloxone available for free at 14 gas stations across the city. This is part of a larger effort to increase access to the medication, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and potentially save lives.

More important than its availability is the fact that Naloxone in these locations will be free. Currently, the cost of one of the most well-known brands of Naloxone, Narcan, comes at a whopping $45 per box. Each box contains 2 nasal sprays, which is the recommended dose for someone experiencing an opioid overdose. That means that with this program, individuals in Chicago will be able to access potentially life-saving medication without having to worry about the high cost.

Are Gas Stations the Best Areas for Naloxone?

The first gas station to unveil Zimhi, the injectable form of Naloxone, is the Amoco gas station in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the city’s West Side.  According to one former user, Matt McFarland of the nonprofit Lawndale Christian Legal Center, "This gas station lies in one of the ‘hot zones’ across the City of Chicago, experiencing a high number of opioid-related deaths.”

While overdoses and overdose deaths can occur anywhere, a study examining city streetscapes of where overdoses occur showed that fatal overdoses are common in areas where adults loitered, such as gas stations, and areas with higher poverty. However, it's important to note that overdoses aren't restricted to these areas or the homeless population. They can happen anywhere and to anyone.

According to the above study, other common areas include:

  • Construction sites or areas with scaffolding
  • Homeless shelters
  • Supportive housing
  • Public parks
  • Public transit

With that being said, it's critical to make Naloxone available in areas where there is a high likelihood of opioid use and overdose. Gas stations, being frequented by individuals from different backgrounds and demographics, could potentially reach a larger population in need of Naloxone.

Zimhi Vs. Narcan

It's important to note that the form of Naloxone being distributed at the Amoco gas station and others is Zimhi, not Narcan. While both are forms of Naloxone and can reverse an opioid overdose, there are some key differences between the two.

Zimhi Is Injectable

Zimhi is an injectable form of Naloxone that delivers an extremely high dose through the muscle. This is also known as IM, or intramuscular injection. Many people are familiar with epi-pens for allergic reactions, which is somewhat similar to how Zimhi is administered.

The packaging with the injector is easy to use and comes with step-by-step instructions. While it’s a bit more cumbersome to administer, according to FDA prescribing information on Zimhi, it can be administered through clothing and is designed for people as young as 12 years old to administer.

Narcan Is a Nasal Spray

Narcan, on the other hand, is a nasal spray form of Naloxone. This makes it more user-friendly and easier for non-medical personnel to administer in an emergency situation. It's also a lower dose compared to Zimhi.

However, while generic brands have recently become available without a prescription, OTC versions aren't available in every pharmacy. If you do find naloxone at a pharmacy, it might be the brand name Narcan instead of a generic version. In short, Narcan is highly effective and life-saving, but does come with a hefty price tag.

Both Are Effective in Reversing Overdose

Despite the differences between Zimhi and Narcan, both forms of Naloxone are equally effective at reversing an opioid overdose. The main difference lies in their delivery methods and dosages. It's important to note that time is crucial when administering either form of Naloxone, so it's best to use either form that's on hand.

Future Availability

Chicago's initiative is fairly new, and not unlike community centers around the country that are already giving away free Narcan kits. The difference is its availability in areas where people who are experiencing an overdose or their companions can access the medication quickly. As the opioid epidemic continues to rage in America, Chicago's program can be the first of many to focus life-saving efforts on the most dire areas.