As overdoses reach a record high, the Broome County Health Department looks to Narcan.

According to, Broome County had 80 suspected fatal overdoses in 2022, the highest death rate due to drugs that the county has seen since 2016, when statistics were first recorded. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were increased reports of fentanyl, a painkiller, in the illicit drug market — now suspected to be the top contributor to overdose deaths.

Illicit drugs, like painkillers, cocaine and heroin may now be laced with varying amounts of fentanyl, according to the Broome Opioid Awareness Council. In response to the overdose crisis, the Broome County Health Department is advocating for Narcan to be available over the counter in an effort to prevent fatal overdoses by making the product accessible to the public.

Narcan, also known as naloxone, reverses an opioid overdose and can be administered through the nasal passage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), naloxone can be used without medical training, can be administered at any time without causing harm and is easy to use. Once the product is administered, normal breathing is restored in two to three minutes.

Marissa Knapp, the Opioid Overdose Prevention Coordinator at the Broome County Health Department, emphasized the importance of being knowledgeable about the drug market today, and described how to prevent a fatal overdose using Narcan.

“Counterfeit pills now are so sophisticated that they look real,” Knapp said. “Now the concern is you really cannot trust anything. The amount of fentanyl being put in the drug supply is scary. We want to make sure they understand that if you’re using drugs either daily or recreationally that you have a Narcan kit.”

Bennett Doughty, director of Binghamton University’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Program (OOPP) and a clinical assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said Narcan is beneficial for everyone to have, including those that are not opioid users. During the 2022-2023 academic year, over 300 campus community members have been trained to administer Narcan through the OOPP.

“One-hundred-percent I think all of us should carry naloxone,” Doughty wrote in an email. “Just as you don’t plan for a house fire to occur, if it happens, you’d want to make sure you have an extinguisher. We should carry naloxone for all those around us because Broome County has proven to be one of the counties within New York state that has an above average overdose rate, unfortunately.”

Knapp spoke of the recreational use of drugs at BU, and the risks it poses to students both on and off campus. She said finals week can be one of the riskiest times for students to have an accidental overdose, and it is best to be prepared.

“I would 100 percent say for advocacy it would be amazing if dorms had Narcan kits,” Knapp wrote. “If all the fraternities and sororities had them in the houses. Places students go should have Narcan.”

Students across campus expressed their thoughts on increasing the presence of Narcan. Dorota Waszczyszak, an undeclared freshman, expressed her belief that Narcan kits should be available in areas students frequent.

“The kits should definitely be in the dorms, fraternity houses, bars, really anywhere people go for more of a social scene,” Waszczyszak said. “Even if you would never use drugs, there might be someone around you that needs help.”

Bianca Suiu, a freshman majoring in nursing, commented on how Narcan awareness is important, especially for college students, despite there being limited mandatory education opportunities on the topic.

“As much of a problem as this is in Broome County, I don’t think it’s talked about enough,” Suiu said. “I think there needs to be more education on how to get it and also how to use it — even if they added Narcan training into freshman orientation, anything would help.”

While Narcan is not available over the counter, there are currently many resources to get a kit for free both on and off campus. On campus, the OOPP holds monthly training and training per request. Off campus, the county has programs such as the Addiction Center of Broome County (ACBC), Southern Tier AIDS Program (STAP) and Truth Pharm.

According to Knapp, the county wanted to make this product more accessible, and getting the product on the shelves of drug stores is the next step.

“I always say, the only thing Narcan is going to do is save someone’s life,” Knapp said. “I personally don’t know what’s more important than saving someone’s life, [and] it’s as easy as a ten-minute training and then you’ll always have a kit with you. It really is so important.”