These students go to school with an overdose antidote.
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These students go to school with an overdose antidote.

UNITED STATES

Schoolchildren go to school with overdose antidote

Faced with a rise in opioid use, many students are carrying nasal spray to save classmates who are using drugs.

Published

This school bag sprays Narcan to save someone who has overdosed.

AFP

Every morning before heading to high school, 17-year-old Jackson Danzing makes sure his bag contains books, homework, lunch… and the antidote to revive an overdose victim. Narcan is increasingly becoming a part of everyday life for teenagers in the United States, a country ravaged by an opioid crisis including fentanyl, a drug 50 times more powerful than heroin.

“Everyone has a friend or acquaintance who has dabbled in drugs. Imagine a scenario in which you discover that one of your friends may have overdosed and you don’t know what to do, says Jackson, who, along with his friend Marin Peel, provided Narcan training to 350 of his high school friends. .

Here in Arlington, near the Washington metropolitan area where Jackson goes to school, the use of this nasal spray is not a fictional scenario: Police intervened in seven overdoses in public schools last year. One student even died.

Wide availability of synthetic fentanyl

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from March 2022 to March 2023, there were 110,000 drug overdose or overdose-related deaths in the United States, two-thirds of which were due to fentanyl use.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths among teens increased by 94% from 2019 to 2020, which in part explains the greater “availability of illicitly produced synthetic fentanyl.”

But expanding access to naloxone (commonly known as Narcan) can also be controversial, with some parents, Adlington students report, believing the molecule makes it easier or even justifiable to use hard drugs.

Across the country, local governments have adopted varying policies regarding opioids. Portland, a progressive city in Oregon, decided to lower drug fines to such an extent that open markets for illegal products began to emerge, leading to an increase in overdoses.

States have taken the opposite path, tightening drug laws. After three overdoses, two of them fatal, by high school students earlier this year in Tennessee, the lone survivor was charged with killing two of his classmates.

Antidote training

But overall, “I see support for naloxone in the political trends, and I think it’s a win from a public health perspective,” says Kate Humphreys, a researcher at Stanford University.

Arlington, like the rest of Virginia, is drug-free. And students who bring naloxone to high school must first receive training in its use and get parental approval, said Darrell Sampson, director of student services for the city’s public schools. “We always had to deal with drugs in schools. But none of these substances were as cheap to produce, as lethal even in small doses or as addictive as opioids and fentanyl,” he told AFP.

Only part of the solution

For Keith Humphries, expanding access to Narcan is only part of the solution to a serious crisis. He said authorities should allocate more public funds to young people’s mental health to help them manage their emotions and build healthier relationships. As for naloxone, it can be used in case of overdose, but it will not help cope with addiction problems. “It would be a mistake to think that by reducing the number of overdose deaths we will make much progress. These are extremely modest ambitions,” he told AFP.

Jackson Danzig and Marin Peele started carrying naloxone with them about last year, even before their school officially allowed them to do so, to keep them out of trouble. A year later, Narcan has become a part of their daily lives. “Regardless of the class, there should be a box, and I, for one, always have it with me. This way I am always ready,” concludes Marin.

(AFP)

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