428, that’s how many Kansans died in 2021 from an opioid-related drug overdose according to data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Peter Ninemire calls the situation “just a whole new phenomenon. I've been doing this work for 20 years, and I've never seen anything like this.”

Ninemire runs The Caring Center, a mental health and addiction treatment facility in Wichita. Just this week he’s had two clients who nearly died from an overdose. “One was a patient at home who overdosed and had the EMS come and actually saved her, bringing her back to life. The other one had a friend, a boyfriend that had, and he was young he was like 16 years old, and they brought him back to life with Naloxone and Narcan."

Wednesday morning the Food and Drug Administration announced it has approved Narcan, a brand name version of the overdose reversal chemical Naloxone for sale over the counter. This means the spray could be available outside of pharmacies, like at grocery stores or online. Which opens up access to many more people according to Ninemire. “It could potentially save a lot of lives.

He adds that the Fentanyl and other opioids that are being distributed today are much stronger than anything before, making it harder for people to quit.

That's why he thinks people should look at having increased access to Narcan as potentially giving someone a second chance to get clean.

“People don't understand addiction as a disease, but they don't understand the way this drug works," Ninemire told KAKE. He continued by saying that “it starts with people understanding it rather than, demonizing and stigmatizing and all the other stuff that goes with it.”

The company that produces Narcan, Emergent Biosolutions, says it will be available for over-the-counter by late summer while it ramps up production.

Several other Naloxone manufacturers have applied to have their products available over the counter as well.