• Nearly 13,000 safer drug use items have been dispensed since March 2021.
  • Narcan from machine reversed nearly 600 overdoses.
  • Vending option draws people who smoke drugs.


CINCINNATI — Punch a code into the safer drug-use vending machine, and get free Narcan. Or get safer smoking products, fentanyl test strips, or other things that help keep you out of harm’s way.

Nearly 600 overdoses have been turned around with naloxone products from this machine.

Nearly 13,000 safer drug use and healthcare items, from safer-smoking pipes to personal protective equipment, have been dispensed from the vending machine outside Caracole since it opened in 2021.

Caracole, the Cincinnati region’s nonprofit devoted to fight against HIV and AIDS, operates the harm reduction vending machine. It tracks the machine’s customer base and product dispensing. A report from March 1, 2021, to Sept. 30 this year shows an “overwhelming” response to the strategy, said Caracole CEO Linda Seiter.

“We have provided life-saving supplies for persons who use drugs 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Seiter said.

Nation’s second safer drug-use vending machine gets noticed

The safer-use machine was only the second of its kind in the country when it became available to people who use drugs, with the first harm-reduction vending program in Las Vegas. Since then, the Cincinnati-based machine has reached more than 800 individuals, and it has become an avenue for harm reduction help for a client base that isn’t always reached by such efforts: people who smoke, rather than inject, drugs. And that can include recreational drug users.

Harm reduction is the effort to give people who use drugs practical ways to minimize their health risks in a nonjudgmental manner. Syringe exchanges, which provide sterile needles to drug users to reduce the chances of getting HIV or hepatitis C and containers for used syringes for safe disposal, are among those strategies.

The region’s vending machine is a model strategy in the country for fighting overdoses and overdose deaths while helping those who use drugs stay healthy in other ways. Caracole’s prevention team has had 57 meetings with individuals from communities across the country how to do it since the machine’s inception.

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“We can share everything,” said Suzanne Bachmeyer, Caracole’s prevention director.

She’s talked to New York City and Philadelphia health departments and dozens of other community-based harm reduction groups and health officials.

Throughout the country, vending machines are becoming a sought-after way to prevent harm and death from drug use. In Kentucky’s Hardin County, a vending machine stocked with Narcan that opened to the public early in October ran out of the opioid overdose antidote in less than two days.