The White House is urging American public schools to carry Naloxone, commonly known as NARCAN, to help combat sky-high overdose rates from fentanyl.
A letter was sent regarding fentanyl awareness from United States Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona and the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Rahul Gupta to all U.S. schools. The letter called on school administrators and educators to take conscious efforts towards harm reduction in the face of a drug they said was having a “disproportionate impact on our children.”
The letter emphasized how effective naloxone, which is an opioid antagonist medication, can be. Naloxone can stop an opiate overdose in its tracks if administered quickly enough and as the letter also mentioned, it’s an incredibly safe medication to use.
“Studies show that naloxone access can reduce overdose death rates, that its availability does not lead to increases in youth drug use, and that it causes no harm if used on a person who is not overdosing on opioids,” the letter said. “It is important to note that individuals should not be afraid to administer naloxone, as most states have Good Samaritan Laws protecting bystanders who aid at the scene of an overdose. Our schools are on the frontlines of this epidemic, but our teachers and students can be equipped with tools to save lives.”
The Biden administration has made previous efforts to combat an issue that has managed to affect almost every community in the country, including making naloxone an over-the-counter medication. This latest development, however, marks the most concrete acknowledgement by the Biden administration that the fentanyl problem is affecting America’s children.
“Overdose deaths among adolescents doubled from 2019 to 2020 and continue to rise, even though youth rates of drug use have remained stagnant. That’s because a teenager today can log onto social media with a smartphone and buy what they think is an opioid pain medicine or a prescription stimulant to help them study—and instead die from one pill that actually has fentanyl in it. Just one pill,” the letter said. “And data show that two-thirds of adolescent drug poisoning deaths occurred with a potential bystander nearby, but naloxone was often not administered.”
Naloxone has proven to be, in the most blunt possible terms, the only tool which has managed to prevent any tangible number of deaths from fentanyl, which is hundreds if not thousands of times stronger gram for gram than almost any other opiate available legally or illegally and has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans since emerging onto the scene. Naloxone is administered via an easy-to-use nasal spray which will not harm anyone, even if they don’t have opiates in their system, according to the FDA.
For a long time naloxone was somewhat hard to find, only available through a prescription and very expensive especially for anyone in active drug addiction. Previously, doses could cost upwards of $100 but today, single doses currently run about $45 through most pharmacies and some overdoses require more than one dose of naloxone to reverse it. The letter from the Biden administration emphasized how critical it is that our nation’s teachers and school administrators understand this life-saving medication and stay prepared to use it.
“Our schools are on the frontlines of this epidemic, but our teachers and students can be equipped with tools to save lives,” the letter said. “There is no time to waste when responding to an overdose, and it is critical that youth and school personnel can access naloxone on school grounds during and after school.”
There are now several programs which will provide a certain number of free doses of naloxone to eligible participants. A cursory Google search of “free naloxone + your local township, county or state” will, in many places, provide options for free naloxone for at-risk people if not everybody. If your area does not have a free program, you can visit Next Distro which sends free doses to people who cannot otherwise access it.
I must break from journalistic candor for a moment to urge everybody reading this, even people who do not use drugs, even people who do not believe they know any addicts (though I can assure you that you do), please carry naloxone with you whenever possible. Opiate addiction affects people of every shape and size, every cultural and economic background. It’s affecting children, it’s affecting everybody and carrying naloxone unequivocally saves lives. Don’t take my word for it either, take the president’s.