One of the admittedly few rays of hope in the opioid epidemic is the growing availability of naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug. As a nasal spray, its brand name is Narcan, and it can restore normal breathing to people whose respiration has slowed or stopped due to an overdose. Narcan comes pre-filled, so there’s no need to do any measuring or assembly, and there are no needles involved. This makes it easy for even people with no medical training to use, which is why it’s increasingly being carried prescription-free by pharmacies and available at community centers. The United States Surgeon General even issued an advisory that members of the public should carry naloxone, particularly if you or someone you know is at risk for an opioid overdose. One place where Narcan is slowly being introduced – to much controversy – is in schools.
Some states have begun to authorize schools to have Narcan on hand in case it’s needed. You might wonder if opioid abuse is really such a problem among school aged children, but the statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are eye-opening. In 2016, an estimated 3.3 million people age 12 or over were currently abusing pain relievers, which accounts for about 1.2 percent of that population. An estimated 239,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 were current abusers of pain relievers, which is about 1.0 percent of adolescents. Roughly 631,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 misused pain relievers in the previous month, or about 1.8 percent of young adults.
The National Association of School Nurses has spoken out in favor of having Narcan in schools. Typically, the school nurse is the first person who responds to any sort of medical problem in a school setting, and they have to be prepared for the possibility that a student will overdose while at school. Many opioid overdose deaths are preventable if there is naloxone on hand, but by the time emergency services arrive to start treatment, it’s often too late. Having a nurse there to immediately provide help could potentially save many lives.
Of course, there are people who argue that having Narcan in schools is just going to give kids the idea that it’s okay to abuse opioids, or that they’ll have a safety net if they do so. There has been no evidence that wider access to naloxone increases opioid abuse, however. One study in Massachusetts found that distributing the drug to opioid users and their friends and family saved 237 lives by reversing overdoses, and the number of people abusing opioids did not increase.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.