New York City debuted a new vending machine Monday that provides free crack pipes, condoms, and Narcan for drug overdoses, among other items.
The big blue machine is the first of four vending machines that will be installed in some of New York’s most drug-infested neighborhoods, city health department officials said.
The vending machines will offer “Safer Smoking” kits that include a crack pipe, mouthpiece, and lip balm for smoking crack and crystal meth, according to the New York Post. The machines also offer “Safer Sniffing kits” as well as the emergency overdose drug Naloxone (brand name Narcan) and drug-test strips that detect fentanyl.
People can also pick up other non-drug related items from the machine like condoms, tampons, nicotine gum and first-aid kits.
Drug addicts can access the free items by punching in their New York City zip code.
The machines cost the city $11,000.
City officials held a a press conference Monday next to one of the machines.
“We have a rising tide of fentanyl, and now we have other substances entering our drug supply, which is really putting us behind the eight ball,” Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said at the press conference.
Vasan cited Xylazine, known as “Tranq” or the “zombie drug,” a horse tranquilizer that causes skin lesions that look like flesh is being eaten off and can slow a person’s heart until it stops.
Drug dealers are reportedly mixing Xylazine with other drugs like meth, cocaine, and fentanyl to prolong the high. Xylazine previously proliferated on the streets of San Francisco and Philadelphia, but it has recently hit the streets of New York with “astonishing” speed, according to law enforcement.
“We are in the midst of an overdose crisis in our city, which is taking a fellow New Yorker from us every three hours and is a major cause of falling life expectancy in NYC,” Vasan added in a statement.
Vasan said public health vending machines are “an innovative way to meet people where they are and to put life-saving tools like Naloxone in their hands.”
“This is an important arrow in our quiver,’’ Vasan said. “It’s not the be-all and end-all solution, but it’s an important tool that says to New Yorkers, ‘Hey, we are going to bring the tools that saves lives to you.’”
The first vending machine does not include syringes for drugs like heroin, but other machines may include them, Vasan said.
City officials said similar vending machines in Philadelphia and Nevada as well as Denmark in Europe and Australia have proven effective at lowering the overdose rate and spread of diseases.
Fatal overdose data for 2022 is still being compiled, but officials estimate 2022 may have been the deadliest year on record for drug overdose deaths.
There were 1,370 fatal overdoses in the city in just the first half of 2022.
In all of 2021, there were 2,668 overdose deaths in New York City, a record number.
In 2020, 2,103 people fatally overdosed in the city.
About 84% of those deaths involved an opioid, and 80% of them involved fentanyl, according to the NYC Department of Health. Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.