Narcan on Campus: How High Schools and Colleges Benefit
From fire extinguishers to portable defibrillators to epinephrine pens, plenty of disaster-averting devices have been embraced by schools and universities all across the nation. So it is no surprise that these institutions are starting to stock Narcan as a tool to combat opioid overdoses. Why isn’t this effort more comprehensive than it is, and why is it meeting with some resistance?
What is Narcan?
Narcan is the brand name for the medication naloxone, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the emergency treatment of an opioid overdose. Narcan actually blocks the effects of opioids on the body by “knocking them out” of the brain’s opiate receptors. It is administered either through a syringe injection or a nasal spray.
Narcan is a vital tool in the war on opioid addiction in the U.S. More than 42,000 people died in 2016 from overdosing on opioids such as heroin, fentanyl, or oxycodone. Since 2010, there has been a dramatic surge in opioid overdoses among people between the ages of 15 and 24. That is why many drug prevention advocates are pushing to get Narcan into schools across the country.
Schools are Getting More Narcan
To aid in these efforts, the manufacturer of Narcan has set up a program to provide the lifesaving drug to schools at no charge. Adapt Pharma has pledged to provide one carton of Narcan nasal spray to every high school that asks for one, and as many as four cartons to any college or university upon request. The drug manufacturer is underwriting grants to organizations in U.S. communities to help educate residents about the dangers of opioid abuse.
In addition, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) is urging school administrators to acquire Narcan, to have it available on campus in case of an opioid overdose, and to train school officials in how to use it. States such as New York, New Mexico, Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Connecticut have also drawn up laws and policies related to schools stocking and administering Narcan.
Narcan in the Community: Too Much or Not Enough?
Unfortunately, the introduction of Narcan into the school environment is meeting with resistance in some areas. Some principals and school administrators question the need for the drug on their campuses, especially if purchasing Narcan diverts funds from other school activities. Others cite the lack of research on opioid overdoses at school as a reason to avoid obtaining Narcan.
Conversely, some supporters of Narcan are calling for an even larger distribution of Narcan at schools and elsewhere. Some community-based programs have begun issuing Narcan “rescue kits” to opioid abusers and their families to have on hand in the event of an overdose. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released in 2015, these distributed rescue kits saved over 26,000 lives between 1996 and 2014.
Narcan Is Not a Cure-All
However, it is essential to remember that Narcan, either by itself or in a rescue kit, is not a panacea for the opioid abuse problem. The medication is only designed to be used as a last resort in a life-or-death situation. So unlike fire extinguishers or epinephrine pens which can quickly solve a problem, Narcan simply prevents a fatal overdose, but it does nothing to cure the addiction which led to it.
Opioid addicts or abusers are much more likely to kick the habit if they undergo comprehensive drug rehabilitation treatment under the care of experienced counselors and healthcare personnel. So while pressing for Narcan in your school (or getting a prescription from a doctor for you or an addicted loved one) is a worthwhile effort, the most effective teen addiction treatment for opioid abusers involves rehab, education, and counseling over a long period of time.
If your teenager is struggling with opioid addiction, do not delay. Contact us immediately!