“NARCAN” Vanity Plate Is Changing the Conversation About Overdose

Shatterproof Editorial Team
Stephen sitting on the couch and holding up a license plate that spells "NARCAN"

Stephen Murray is a former paramedic, an overdose researcher at Boston Medical Center, and a person in recovery. He knows the incredible power of naloxone firsthand.

Also known by the brand name Narcan, this medication can reverse an opioid overdose in just minutes. 

Throughout his work and life, Murray has seen Narcan save lives, turning what could have been a tragedy into an opportunity for hope and healing. As the American overdose crisis continues to get deadlier and deadlier, it’s become Murray’s mission to raise awareness about the medication.

“Narcan has saved tens of thousands of lives here in Massachusetts,” Murray told The Boston Globe. “I’ve used it to save over 100 lives myself, alone.”

Murray’s even forged relationships with some of the people whom he’s revived with Narcan. He’s attended their graduation parties, liked photos of their babies on Facebook. To Murray, Narcan is a beautiful thing that more people should know about.

So when Murray came across a Globe story highlighting some of the unique (and wacky) vanity plates that can be seen on cars across the Bay State, it sparked an idea. Maybe this could be an opportunity to raise awareness about naloxone, he thought.

Murray submitted a request for a vanity license plate that read either “NARCAN” or “NALXNE.” But at first, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles denied the request.

Murray had included a short note in his application describing his lifesaving work and his desire to raise awareness about overdoses and naloxone. Still, in a generic rejection letter, the RMV claimed the request was “vulgar” or “in poor taste.”

“He was disappointed, however, when the RMV turned him down.” The Boston Globe reports. “Plenty of other plates with questionable names — “BIMBO,” “BOOGER,” and “WTF” among them — had made the cut. Why not his?”

Murray mobilized his Twitter following of fellow addiction experts and people with lived experience to dispute the rejection.

The RMV took notice. A few weeks later, it apologized and reversed its decision.



Murray isn’t holding any grudges. He’d requested the plate in the hopes of starting a conversation, and he’s done just that, making headlines all across the state. “My goal was to raise awareness about the medication,” he said, “and it worked.”

Murray has also highlighted a local organization, Team Sharing, that offers an overdose awareness specialty plate for folks who, like him, want to spark conversations through their bumpers.

Addiction and healthcare professionals across the state have applauded Murray’s stigma-shattering efforts. 

There are lots of false perceptions of naloxone out there. 

Some worry that this medication enables drug use, or that it’s dangerous or illicit. These perceptions couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Naloxone is safe, FDA-approved, and legal for all citizens to carry. Saving a life with naloxone gives that person the opportunity to recover, to live a full and happy life after their overdose. And that’s what matters. Learn more about how to use naloxone and how to access it in your community.