Big Apple officials unveiled a street vending machine Monday that covers it all when it comes to catering to drug-users, offering free handy paraphernalia such as crack pipes and lip balm — and also Narcan for overdoses.
The vending machine, one of four set to be placed in some of the city’s most drug-infested neighborhoods, swaps out what would be more typical offerings such as candy bars and potato chips for the drug-related freebies to try to combat the surge in overdoses in the five boroughs, city Health Department bigs said.
“Every three hours, we’re losing a New Yorker [to drugs]. And it looks like 2022 is on track to be our highest year ever in overdoses,’’ Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said at a press conference next to the first machine, which is parked near a nonprofit aimed at offering housing and other support for those in need.
“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,” Vasan said.
He specifically noted the increasing presence of Xylazine, a veterinary drug known as “Tranq” or the “zombie drug’’ that can leave users in a catatonic state and with conditions that eat their flesh off.
“We’re looking to stock these machines with those [test strips] as well,” Vasan said.
The machine looks like a typical snack vending contraption but is stacked with what health officials say are potential life-saving tools instead.
The available goods include the overdose-busting drug Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, drug-test strips that detect fentanyl and “Safer Smoking” kits complete with a heavy stem pipe, mouthpiece and lip balm that can be used to smoke crack and crystal meth.
There also are “Safer Sniffing’’ kits and random assorted items such as condoms, tampons, nicotine gum and first-aid packages.
People don’t have to pay for the items; they simply punch in their zip code to get access.
While the first machine does not include syringes, future ones may include them, Vasan said.
The machines, which cost $11,000, will be installed in areas most plagued by drug overdoses, he said.
“This is an important arrow in our quiver,’’ Vasan said of the vending machines. “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.’ ”
Officials first announced early last year that they were moving ahead with the pilot program, as drug overdoses spiked in the city.
According to Big Apple data, 2021 was a record year for fatal overdoses in the five boroughs, with 2,668 drug deaths.
Although 2022 numbers have not yet been completely compiled, health officials said the yearly figure is expected to eclipse the 2021 record. The first half of last year alone saw 1,370 fatal overdoses, the stats show.
About 80% of those overdoses involved fentanyl.
But with the US Drug Enforcement Administration now calling Tranq “the deadliest drug threat” in the US, “we have new Xylazine test strips similar to the fentanyl test strips [which] allow people who use drugs to identify whether there is Tranq in whatever they’re using’’ and they could be added to the vending machines, too, Vasan said.
While the anti-drug vending machines will be new to New York City, Vasan said they have already been installed elsewhere, including in Philadelphia and Nevada in the US and in Australia and in Denmark in Europe.
“The answer to the opioid crisis is more,” the commissioner said. “More tools, more education, more harm-reduction, more stigma-busting, more treatment.
“We are up against an ever-growing crisis and we need to get our arms around it, which is what we’re doing here today,” he said.