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    November 2016

    How Are You Responding to Student Opioid Overdoses?

    Consider Equipping Campus Security With Naloxone Nasal Spray

    teenage girl and boy sitting outside

    The U.S. is currently suffering an opioid overdose epidemic. Over 28,000 Americans died in 2014 from opioid overdoses, more than either motor vehicle crashes or firearms. In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a naloxone nasal spray that can stop or reverse an opioid overdose. The FDA cited the drug’s safety, efficacy, quality, and potential to save lives. Many educational institutions are considering whether to equip their campus security with this overdose-reversing nasal spray. Although schools and colleges are understandably worried about increased liability if naloxone nasal spray is administered, when used properly, liability is minimal.

    Opioid Use on Campus

    Opioids are a class of drugs that include legal pain medications, like oxycodone and morphine, and illegal drugs like opium and heroin. The misuse of prescription opioids by students is more common than administrators and campus security may suspect. One in 12 high school seniors report using oxycodone for recreational use, and half of college students say they can easily get prescription opioids from friends in 24 hours. Significantly, a majority of new heroin users report abusing prescription opioids prior to trying heroin.

    The misuse of legal and illegal opioids can result in overdose. On college campuses, almost one-third of students say they know someone who has overdosed on drugs like hydrocodone or heroin. As more overdoses occur in K-12 classrooms, organizations like the National Association of School Nurses are encouraging schools and districts to include naloxone nasal spray in their opioid overdose response. 

    Is Naloxone Nasal Spray Dangerous?

    Naloxone nasal spray is remarkably safe; it carriers no risk of incorrect use or abuse. Within two to five minutes it can stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in adults and children, and it has no effect on someone without opioids in their system. The drug is sprayed into one nostril while the patient is lying on his or her back, and this process can be repeated as many times as necessary.

    How Can Campus Security Get Naloxone?

    Although naloxone is a prescription drug, most states make it available to third parties, such as law enforcement, without a prescription. Consult an attorney about how to equip your campus security with naloxone nasal spray.

    Should Campus Security Be Trained Before Using Naloxone?

    Yes, but the content and length of training are discretionary in most states. State or local departments of health, community-based organizations, health care organizations, or EMS agencies may provide officer training at no charge. Training may include three basic elements:

    • Recognizing signs of an opioid overdose
    • Providing basic life support
    • Properly administering naloxone

    Do Campus Security Officials Face Liability When Using Naloxone?

    More than half the states have passed naloxone access laws that shield any person from civil or criminal liability when administering naloxone. In fact, as long as campus security acts in good faith and within the scope of their training and institutional policies, the risk of liability to themselves or the institution is generally low. Seek advice from a local attorney on the applicability of state naloxone access laws to your institution. For more information on state naloxone laws, refer to one of these resources: the Network for Public Health Law, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Policy Surveillance Program.

    Additional Resources

    Bureau of Justice Assistance: Law Enforcement Naloxone Toolkit
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Opioid Overdose
    Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation: Opioid Use Among College-Age Youth
    National Association of School Nurses: Naloxone in Schools Toolkit
    National Institute on Drug Abuse: High School and Youth Trends
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Naloxone
    U.S. Food & Drug Administration: Narcan Nasal Spray Approved

    By Joe Vossen, risk management counsel

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