NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – One city pharmacy will be participating in the state’s program to distribute naloxone – an opioid overdose reversal drug commonly known by its brand name, Narcan.

Walgreens at 20 Jersey Ave. will be giving away free dosages of naloxone Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

"You actually can just walk up to the pharmacist and say you'd like your free Narcan, and they will give it to you," said Carole Johnson, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services.

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Johnson and Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration are hoping the giveaway program helps stem the surge in overdose deaths.

According to state statistics, New Jersey’s overdose death rate was 17% higher in the first half of 2020 compared to the first six months of 2019. Between March and July of this year, there were almost 1,300 suspected overdose deaths. By comparison, the state saw just under 1,200 in all of 2019.

The highest number of cases this year have been in Essex, Camden and Ocean counties, with Atlantic, Middlesex and Passaic counties seeing high numbers, too.

The state is prepared to give out 72,000 free doses. Rite Aid on Raritan Avenue in Highland Park, Walmart pharmacy on Route 1 in North Brunswick, ShopRite pharmacy on Route 1 in Edison, Loving Care Pharmacy on Lincoln Highway in Edison and Rite Aid on Route 1 in Edison are also taking part in the program.

The state has set up a website with all the participating locations.

The naloxone will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies last. No payment or insurance will be required.

Naloxone can reverse overdoses from opioids by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain. Those who obtain naloxone will also be given information regarding addiction treatment and recovery.

Participating pharmacies have standing orders from the Department of Health for dispensing of naloxone. The distribution is a Human Services program approved by the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy.

Human Services has also distributed 53,000 free doses of naloxone to police departments, 11,352 free doses to EMS teams, 1,200 free doses to shelters for those experiencing homelessness and 400 free doses to libraries.

“Last year’s turnout showed there is a strong demand for naloxone. New Jerseyans stood up and said they want to help and be ready to have the opportunity to save someone’s life,” Johnson said. “We want to build on last year’s event and get naloxone into as many hands as possible. We want to save lives.”