Your school has a fire alarm. Fire extinguisher on each floor. Earthquake drills, if you live in California. Active-shooter drills, because it’s the 21st century. AED unit, in case of heart complications. EpiPen, for allergies.
But does your school have Narcan, in case of a drug overdose?
What is Narcan?
First, what is Narcan?
When someone overdoses on opioids, whether it’s heroin, fentanyl, or prescription painkillers, they can stop breathing. Death can occur if they’ve been unresponsive for too long.
Narcan is a medicine that temporarily halts the effects of overdose in its tracks. This FDA-approved nasal spray, which contains naloxone hydrochloride, helps revive someone who has stopped breathing or responding due to an opioid overdose—even if it’s just a suspected overdose.
The life-saving nasal kit is small, requires no assembly, and can be administered by anyone at all. Best of all, if it’s accidentally administered on someone who was not taking opioids, there’s no harm done.
Teens and the Opioid Epidemic
America is experiencing a huge opioid epidemic right now. According to the CDC, approximately 130 users die from an opioid overdose every single day. That means that in the 10 or so minutes it takes for you to read this article, another person has died from an overdose.
So if you have a teen, spouse, family member or friend addicted to heroin, fentanyl, or other opioid drugs, there’s almost no reason not to have naloxone with you wherever you go. While we are sure you’d prefer not to have your loved one be abusing drugs in the first place, Narcan is an emergency back-up plan. Like a fire extinguisher. Of course, you hope there won’t be a fire in the first place, but if there is, you’ll be prepared.
From 1996-2014, naloxone was used to reverse 26,500 overdoses, according to NIDA. That’s 26,500 lives that were saved in America, just by regular people carrying Narcan.
This is the same reason we believe all schools should have Narcan on hand, too: because wherever teens are, that’s where naloxone should be. Teens are not immune to the opioid epidemic. In fact, just in 2017, opioid overdose caused more than 3,400 deaths of youth ages 15-24 (National Institute of Drug Abuse).
Narcan is Not Substance Abuse Treatment
Lest you’re thinking that Narcan is just going to give teens greater security to get high and overdose on campus premises, research shows that’s not the case. One study showed that an increase in Narcan distribution to opioid users, their close family and friends, and other laypeople in Massachusetts didn’t increase the rate of opioid abuse. It did, however, lead to hundreds of overdoses being treated right away.
Narcan isn’t a permanent solution for teens dealing with heroin or other opioid addiction—it’s an emergency life-saving measure. You can’t count on Narcan being there whenever your teen or loved one overdoses. Even after administering naloxone, you still have to get the teen to the emergency room, as Narcan’s effect typically lasts only 30-90 minutes.
And without receiving solid, long-term treatment for opioid addiction, like attending a residential drug rehab center or dual diagnosis program, overdose may keep happening until it becomes fatal.
However, it’s still a good idea to consider contingency plans when it comes to managing recovery from heroin or opioid abuse. Relapse is common, even after treatment and recovery. The opioid crisis is real, and overdoses are fatal.
Narcan is one measure that mental health and medical professionals are using to save these lives.
How to Get Narcan In Your School
To get your teen’s high school to carry Narcan, talk to the administrators of your school. Certain public schools throughout the U.S. are eligible to receive 4 doses of Narcan for free. Tell your administration to take advantage of this opportunity to save lives at no cost to them.