To combat the opiate epidemic, high schools and colleges across the United States have been stocking the opioid antidote Narcan (the commercial name for naloxone hydrochloride) to use in case of student overdoses. When given in nasal spray form, Narcan can quickly revive a drug user who has stopped breathing. Naloxone was approved as an overdose treatment by the Food and Drug Administration in 1971 and has since been widely used by first responders.
Adapt Pharma, the Ireland-based company that manufactures Narcan, says it has distributed more than 3,300 doses of the drug to high schools around the country for free, and in April, expanded the program to include colleges and universities
There is no data on the number of opiate overdoses among high school students, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked a major increase in overdose deaths among teens. Overdoses among those age 15 to 19 jumped 19 percent between 2014 and 2015, with the majority coming from opioids, specifically heroin.
One school that has stocked Narcan is Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, New Jersey. School Principal Joseph Occhino told CNBC that three faculty members – the school nurse, athletic trainer and supervisor of health and wellness – received training and authorization to administer the drug to any student who experiences an overdose on school property.
Occhino said the school has not had to use Narcan yet, but making it available for staff members is a good proactive measure. “We all saw what was happening in Bergen County and how widespread the opioid crisis is here and across the country,” he told CNBC. “I hope we never have to use it, but if we do, we’re prepared.”
In Akron, Ohio, last September the school board voted to equip resource officers in the city’s nine middle schools and six high schools with Narcan nasal spray to use in the event of overdoses, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. The officers have been trained to administer the treatment and check the medication in and out when they start and end their shifts.
The board’s action was taken as a preventive measure, rather than as a response to any student overdoses, school district officials said.
Adapt is in the process of extending the free Narcan program to U.S. colleges and universities. In November, Adapt announced a partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Training and Standards Bureau and University of Wisconsin System to provide a limited number of free doses of Narcan across 10 campuses, reaching more than 135,000 students statewide.
Law enforcement and campus security across 10 campuses are being provided Narcan, including: UW-Green Bay, UW-La Crosse, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Stout, and UW-Superior.
Adapt Pharma has invited Title IV-eligible, degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States to apply to receive up to four free boxes (with two 4 milligram doses each) of Narcan. www.narcan.com/partnerships.
The company says more than 216 colleges and universities in 35 states have participated in the program since it was launched last April. The Narcan for High Schools Program has distributed approximately 5,550 free doses to high schools in 41 states.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, overdose education and naloxone distribution (OEND) has been shown to increase the reversal of potentially fatal overdoses; one study showed opioid overdose death rates to be 27 to 46 percent lower in communities where OEND was implemented. Among 4,926 people who used substances and participated in OEND in Massachusetts, 373 (7.6 percent) reported administering naloxone during an overdose rescue. Both trained and untrained personnel were able to use the drug successfully, researchers noted.
A naloxone distribution study in San Francisco reported that 11 percent of participants used naloxone during an overdose; of 399 overdose events where naloxone was used, 89 percent were reversed. Experts say providing a brief tutorial is enough to bring prospective users up to speed in ability to recognize and treat an overdose.