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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Staff Editorial: A step forward; naloxone on campus

AUPD carrying naloxone marks progress, but it should not be the endpoint

Almost exactly a year ago, The Eagle wrote an article and subsequent Staff Editorial regarding the importance of having Narcan, the name brand for naloxone HCl, on campus. We asked that American University begin supplying Narcan immediately or, if that was not possible, provide fentanyl test strips and helpful resources regarding overdoses instead. Until recently, we hadn’t heard any updates on this issue. On Oct. 19, the University announced that AUPD will begin to carry Narcan for students in crises and that training for officers is already underway. 

This is an exciting first step in harm reduction advocacy at AU. Having Narcan on campus is a crucial time saver for a student in need of it. Situations like the alleged overdose in McDowell Hall last semester, where paramedics took an extra 13 minutes to help the student because they were dispatched to an incorrect location, should be avoidable because AUPD will have the resources to help. 

AUPD being the only community members officially required to carry Narcan, however, is an unnecessary barrier for a student needing help. Whether it’s general mistrust of AUPD, fear of repercussions, lack of time or any other issue, students should not have to rely on a single entity to arrive quickly enough to respond to an overdose. Currently, the closest place for students to purchase Narcan is the Walgreens on New Mexico Avenue NW, which closes at 8 p.m. on weeknights and even earlier on weekends. If a student does not feel comfortable going to AUPD, there should be an option on campus that does not cost money. 

The aforementioned announcement discussed the possibility of naloxone boxes, supplied with Narcan, across campus. This would be a welcome addition, especially if boxes were placed in residence halls where students could quickly and easily access them in case of emergency. A convenient location could be adjacent to the automated external defibrillator kits located around campus or fire extinguishers located in each residential building. If students are trusted to defibrillate someone experiencing cardiac arrest with only the training offered from the manuals in each kit, then students can also be trusted to administer Narcan. And, unlike a defibrillator, there is virtually no harm in giving Narcan to someone not actually overdosing. Supplying Narcan in areas easily accessible to students would ensure responders do not lose precious time during an overdose. 

Polysubstance overdoses are increasing in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2019, “nearly half of drug overdose deaths involved multiple drugs.” While official data is unknown, reports of overdoses from opioids in non-opioid drugs, like marijuana, are making their way through the media. In addition to Narcan, students should be able to pick up fentanyl testing strips on campus to avoid any harm.

Another positive announcement with this change is that AU will provide formal training for students to learn how to administer Narcan. The next training will be Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 2:30 p.m. This offering shows students that the University is a proponent of harm reduction strategies and will help to reduce the stigma sometimes associated with Narcan. 

Offering these trainings in a less formal setting and for a longer duration of the day would improve them further. Many students are in class or at work on Wednesday afternoons and won’t be able to attend. Instead, the University could offer training on the quad or in Mary Graydon Center over the course of a day, rather than an hour. Narcan training can take only 20 minutes, making it very accessible to teach and learn in a short period of time. 

Having Narcan on campus shows students that the University is listening to their concerns and responding. But this is only the beginning, and the University can do more to prevent tragedy.

This article was written by Alexis Bernstein and edited by Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti.

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