Naloxone can save lives in schools

Illustration by Savannah Donald/Staff Illustrator

Katie 41

Katie Kyle
Opinion Columnist

 Alabama has never been known for having progressive policies, but the Alabama Department of Education and the Department of Public Health are among the first to fight the opioid epidemic in public schools.  

One of the first of its kind, a new training program will allow school administrators and coaches to give the life-saving drug naloxone to students experiencing overdose. Naloxone, which is better known by its brand name Narcan, immediately reverses the effects of an opioid overdose by blocking the opioids in the body.  It is already used by Alabama first responders in emergencies, thanks to the generous donation by its manufacturer Kaléo, back in May 2018. Since then, it has saved 15 lives, according to WSFA. Kaléo is now offering to make a larger donation of the drug, this time to all Alabama public schools who undergo training on how to properly administer it. 

Many oppose the program, arguing that it condones drug use and enables young people to do them at school. Others are concerned about the cost of the program, or even the negative side effects of the drug. Some say that coaches are not as qualified to administer the drug as school nurses. But the program is a bold move in the right direction for the state of Alabama. It is not mandatory and comes at no cost to taxpayers. The drug has little or no effect if given to someone without opioids in their system, so no one will be harmed if they receive it unintentionally.  

Not all overdoses occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., when a nurse would be at school. Coaches work after hours and on weekends and are at school for every game and sporting event.  It makes sense that they have the drug to reverse an opioid overdose, since they have a greater opportunity to save the lives of not only the students, but their friends, families, and fans, who are attending a game as well. The program couldn’t come soon enough.

Alabama ranked highest in the number of prescriptions written for opioid pain reliever medications, with a whopping 107.2 prescriptions per 100 persons in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  And that’s just the start. According to the CDC, opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths across the nation in 2017, with 835 of those deaths occurring in Alabama. 

All in all, I am in favor of having naloxone in public schools, and I fully support the program for training coaches and administrators to provide it. While many sit squabbling about unfounded objections, the opioid epidemic continues to claim more lives by the day. It is time for us to take proactive measures in saving lives. I am proud of our state for being among the first to take this strong and progressive action.

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