Opioid overdose rescue kits will be available on Ohio University’s campus for students during the 2023 Spring Semester.
Naloxone, more commonly referred to by the brand name Narcan, is an overdose reversal drug that is used on those who have overdosed on high-level opioids, Rebecca Robison-Miller, the senior director of Community Relations for the College of Health Sciences and Professions at OU, said.
In 2020, fentanyl was involved in 81% of overdose deaths in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Deaths caused by overdosing on fentanyl increased 23% from 2020 to 2021, going from 57,834 deaths to 71,238, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine, but is 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is a medicine used to treat patients with severe pain but is often sold illegally and added to other drugs to make them more powerful.
“We should think about accidental fentanyl,” Ann Brandon, the associate director of prevention education for the Office of Health Promotion, or OHP, at OU, said. “We know that it’s in surrounding counties, we know that it’s here. It’s not necessarily ‘if,’ it could be ‘when?’.”
Fentanyl has increased the number of overdoses in Ohio significantly over the last three years, Robison-Miller said. It hasn’t just been found in opioids or methamphetamines, it is found in cocaine, Adderall and marijuana as well.
“It does not discriminate whatsoever, and so, I think getting that message out more and more is really important,” Robison-Miller said.
The campaign behind overdose awareness aims at making people understand that an accidental overdose can happen to anyone and that it’s better to be prepared by having Narcan on hand.
Departments within the university’s Division of Student Affairs are working on outreach and education methods behind why it’s important to have Narcan and discussing where rescue kits will be available for students to access.
Members of the OHP, the College of Health Sciences and Professions and the Collegiate Recovery Community, or CRC, are working with the Athens City-County Health Department, or ACCHD, and groups within the community, such as Athens Hope and the Sexual Assault Outreach Program, to provide funding and keep a safe environment on and off campus.
“Let’s not wait to be reactive,” Robison-Miller said. “Let’s be preventative.”
Brandon previously worked on a study of prescription drug misuse at Ohio State University, which showed that people self-reported their usage, and universities learned to not only focus on the “party drug” and experimentation aspects of drug use.
“The message isn’t that we think all students need this, that all students are doing drugs or all students are using Adderall to study,” Robison-Miller said. “We’re saying if–if you would need it, having it available could save someone’s life.”
A plan to have an educational presentation and a training session will be available in January, followed by free kits being accessible in February or March, Brandon said.
The first step the Division of Student Affairs plans to take is to order 30 Narcan kits in collaboration with the ACCHD, Brandon said.
The OHP is looking at sustainability and long-term funding because Narcan expires after one to three years depending on the brand. Although Brandon said she hopes students won’t have to use the drug, she said it is better to be prepared.
Kits will be available for students in Baker Center room 339, which is the OHP, and other sites are still being discussed, Brandon said.
This initiative started because students and former peer educators opened up the discussion about how to introduce Narcan to campus, how to talk about it and if they could make it accessible for students and departments that are interested, Brandon said.
The ACCHD, the Sexual Assault Outreach Program and Athens Hope worked together at the end of summer and beginning of the fall semester to host a dual Narcan and sexual assault education training program for employees and managers at local bars and restaurants, Robison-Miller said.
Jackie O’s had already been trained prior to this session, but other restaurants and bars that were included in the training session included The Union, Pigskin, Tony’s, The CI and The Crystal. These places now have Narcan available if needed.
The signs of someone overdosing may show them being unresponsive, sluggish, lying down, they may be clammy and pale and the tips of their fingers and lips could be blue. While administering Narcan, which is a nasal spray, someone should call 911 for the individual overdosing to get help as fast as possible.
A 16-milligram dose of Kloxxado is recommended for health departments to use over Naloxone, which has a lower dosage of around 4-8 milligrams. Robison-Miller said that if Narcan is used on an individual who isn’t overdosing, the drug isn’t harmful to them. Administering the drug is protected under the Good Samaritan Law in Ohio.
Narcan is expensive for organizations to purchase in large quantities, costing around $75 to $100, Ann Addington, the CRC coordinator for OU Counseling and Psychological Services, said. If individuals would like their own kit, they can order one through their local pharmacy for free, with most insurance agencies.
Project DAWN is another way to access Narcan for free. On the Project DAWN website under the Ohio Department of Health, individuals can find sites near them to access Naloxone or to be trained on how to use it.