America is facing a fentanyl crisis, with hundreds of teen deaths attributed to drug overdoses this year. Many of these tragedies occur on school campuses, sparking an urgent campaign to stock schools with naloxone, a life-saving drug newly approved for over-the-counter purchase by the FDA.
In Austin, Texas, high school nurse Don Baker witnessed the importance of naloxone firsthand. Within weeks of stocking Narcan, the commercial name for naloxone, she used it to save a 16-year-old girl who overdosed. Naloxone, which can reverse an opioid overdose in an instant, has been used six times in Hayes County Public Schools since it was introduced.
Despite the decreasing rate of illicit drug use among teens nationwide, overdose deaths, including those on school property, are soaring. Between 2010 and 2019, approximately 500 U.S teenagers died each year from drug overdoses. However, in 2020, the number almost doubled to 954 deaths, and in 2021, it increased further to over 1,100.
Fentanyl, a highly lethal drug, is a significant part of the problem. The potency of fentanyl is such that a quantity equivalent to one-tenth of a grain of rice can lead to an overdose death.
Currently, 30 states explicitly authorize the possession and use of naloxone in K-12 schools. However, only Rhode Island requires all schools to keep it on hand. The National Association of School Nurses is encouraging more schools to stock naloxone, as a part of their emergency preparedness plans.
As America grapples with this crisis, the stocking of naloxone in schools, along with the necessary training and education, can be a life-saving measure.