Too many people in Sadie Dupuis' life have fallen victim to drug overdoses.
The frontwoman for indie rock band Speedy Ortiz says she has regularly lost one friend each year - and sometimes as many as multiple friends in a month. The most recent loss came in February 2019. “I was feeling so terrible about it,” she says of her friend’s passing. “I was so sad that there are these friends who I had no idea were using, and I’ll never get them back again.”
This death proved to be a turning point for Dupuis, who decided then and there to start carrying Narcan on tour with Speedy Ortiz. Narcan, a nasal spray version of naloxone, essentially reverses the effects of an opiate overdose. More than 47,000 opioid deaths occurred in the United States in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and for musicians like Dupuis, those losses hit close to home -- which is why some are following Dupuis’ lead by taking Narcan on the road with them.
Naloxone was first patented in the 1960s to counteract overdoses, but it was initially only used in emergency departments and inpatient settings by medical professionals. Starting in the late ’90s, more community programs began to provide the public with naloxone trainings and kits. According to the CDC, more than 26,000 opioid overdoses have been reversed by non-medical personnel using naloxone. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the nasal spray version of naloxone, Narcan, in 2015. Each kit contains two pre-measured doses that can be administered by anyone.
Thanks to her insurance, Dupuis, who lives in Philadelphia, was able to get the kit for free in five minutes at her local CVS. Major U.S. drug stores first began stocking Narcan in late 2017, and most states no longer require a prescription. Many insurances, including Medicaid, cover the majority or all of the $150 cost, a potentially prohibitive price for those without insurance.
“I’m sick of losing friends,” Dupuis says. “I’ve never been in a position to prevent an overdose, but no one ever expects to be. It’s such an easy thing to carry that could save a life. If you have that option, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to.” In addition to keeping the nasal spray on hand at events, Speedy Ortiz has been raising money on its recent tours for the Harm Reduction Coalition, an advocacy organization that works to minimize the destructive effects of drug use in communities across America.