High Schools Stock Up on Narcan to Prepare for Overdose Emergencies

By Beth Leipholtz 02/01/18

Schools across the country are equipping staff with the opioid overdose antidote Narcan.

school nurse

Despite the fact that the opioid crisis is now the deadliest drug overdose crisis in United States history, President Donald Trump spent less than one minute addressing the issue during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

According to an article in CNBC, Trump pointed out that 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016, two-thirds of which were due to opioids such as heroin and the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

“We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge," Trump noted in his address. "My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need, for those who have been so terribly hurt. The struggle will be long, and it will be difficult. But as Americans always do, in the end, we will succeed. We will prevail."

Though the president did not outline a plan to address the crisis, high schools across the country are taking it upon themselves to be prepared, should an overdose occur on school grounds.

According to CNBC, at Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, New Jersey, Principal Joseph Occhino says the school has been approved to carry Narcan, which is a drug that serves as an opioid antidote. The school nurse, athletic trainer and supervisor of health and wellness have been trained offsite and can now administer the drug if needed. So far, Occhino says, it has not been necessary.

"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."

The New Jersey high school isn’t alone in deciding to carry the antidote. According to CNBC, Narcan manufacturer Adapt Pharma says it has given more than 3,300 doses of Narcan to schools across the U.S., free of charge. In April 2016, the company expanded that program to also supply the antidote to colleges and universities.

While there are no statistics that speak specifically to how many teenagers have overdosed while on school grounds, statistics do show that the opioid crisis is affecting teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there was a 19% increase in overdose deaths in teens ages 15 to 19 between 2014 and 2015.

While there is a misconception that doctors do not prescribe opioids to teens, Dr. Calista Harbaugh, a pediatric surgery researcher at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, says this is simply not true.

"Doctors have to be more aware of how much they're prescribing to teens, because of the risk of opioid addiction and the chance that they will share these drugs," she told CNBC. "There's been this perception out there that doctors don't prescribe opioids to teens, but that isn't the case."

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.