Naloxone: the life saving medication

Why overdose-reversing drug must be made available across campus

The use of drugs on campus and in our community is a reality for many students. Determining safe ways to test drugs and become prepared in the event of an overdose is extremely important and easy to do.  There are many situations that you may find yourself in where the use of Naloxone is helpful, or even life-saving.  The importance of a harms reduction approach such as providing education and access to Naloxone highlights the realities of drug use, rather than negating the existence of those struggling with addiction. There are ways that you can educate yourself quickly and easily, which could result in the survival of friends, family members, or strangers. 

Naloxone is a medication that is used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose, which is a life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. Naloxone can be administered by minimally trained individuals to reverse these effects and allows for proper breathing and circulation. Naloxone is the most effective overdose resource available to the general population and can be used by anyone who has fifteen minutes to be briefed on the proper administration of the medication. This is all that is necessary to receive a free kit from your local pharmacist.

In a country that is experiencing an opioid epidemic amidst a worldwide pandemic, Naloxone is an increasingly valuable resource. In the first 15 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a 38.2% rise in opioid-related deaths, and this rate continues to climb on a weekly basis with a predicted 50% increase from the year prior.  In Canada, there are over 17,000 overdoses reported each year, however, many individuals do not report situations of overdose out of fear.  

Fentanyl testing strips are also valuable resources to prevent accidental overdoses, which make up the majority of overdoses in Canada. These tools are used to detect trace amounts of fentanyl in various substances that can be lethal.  If a student possesses illegal drugs with the intent of taking them, the use of fentanyl testing strips informs the user prior to taking the drug if it contains fentanyl.  This gives individuals the opportunity to decide whether they should in fact ingest the drug.   

University Affairs cites university students as an age demographic that is subject to a significant risk of an overdose. The organization also presses universities across Canada to play a bigger role in combatting this epidemic, as the majority of students have direct access to some form of opiates. In the wake of increasing risks of overdose, the University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Calgary, and University of Manitoba have made policy changes in their institutions to make Naloxone kits available on campus. 

Although higher education institutions do not wish to condone the use of drugs such as opiates on their campuses, turning a blind eye to a worldwide crisis is not in the interest of students. Providing training to use Naloxone kits on campus is a safeguard for all students that could potentially be the difference between life and death.  In addition, during the pandemic, there has been a significant change in the location of overdose incidents leading to death, with 75.6% of these incidents occurring in an individual’s residence.  Overdoses that occur within the confines of one’s living space highlights the essentiality for students living in residence to have access to Naloxone kits.  

These testing resources should be offered throughout campus to be the first line of defense against the presence of dangerous combinations of drugs purchased illegally. With the distribution of both fentanyl testing strips and Naloxone kits, students, Dons, and RAs alike will be able to react, if necessary, with minimal training but maximum efficiency in a situation that is much too common in a university setting.

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