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Should Narcan Administration Training Be A School Requirement?

Reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history…overdose recovery? 

As thousands across the country die each year from opioid overdose, the schools have not been insulated from the epidemic. And now, new questions have begun to arise: should students be taught to administer Narcan, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses? 

What is Narcan? 

Narcan, the brand name for naloxone medication, is an FDA approved nasal spray that releases naloxone into the body. This prescription medication is designed for use in emergency opioid overdose situations – either by medical professionals or those without medical training. The naloxone molecules attach to the same receptor sites that opioids seek. By displacing the opioids, the Narcan reverses the life-threatening effects of opioids, specifically respiratory depression. Administration of this “antidote” has saved thousands of lives. 

Narcan In Schools 

In an effort to make emergency treatment more readily available in schools, New Jersey lawmakers have passed legislation that requires high schools in their state to stock naloxone. It will be available for school nurses to administer if needed.  

Now, some legislators want to take the law a step further. A proposal has been made to train all public middle and high school students in the administration of this drug. If written and passed, the bill would require “students in certain grades to receive instruction concerning opioid abuse and training in the administration of opioid antidotes.” Students would learn about the risks of opioid addiction as well as how to use naloxone to intervene if they encounter someone who is overdosing on opioids. 

The Controversy 

Is this required student training a good idea? As with most drug-related questions, it might not be a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Legislators seem torn.  

Those who are concerned about this legislation claim that this training could lead to student drug use. They point out that it could remove the fear of overdose as a deterrent. Once they realize Narcan can bring them back from an overdose, students might be more likely to try opioids. The training could “pave the way for experimenting with opioids.” It could encourage typical teen rationalization: “My friend will just save me with some Narcan if I take too much. Nothing will go wrong.” Critics argue that the legislation will normalize heroin use and “teaches kids they get a free pass if they want to experiment.” 

Opponents also feel this training is not a good use of the limited time and resources available at schools 

On the other side of the debate, supporters of the legislation believe the training would empower students rather than entice or enable them. They argue out that this education would be no different than training in CPR or other first aid measures. Proponents claim it will equip students with the tools and skills they need to help save lives.

Supporters further point out that a school nurse can’t be everywhere at once. Since overdose response must be quick to save the life in danger, it is important for others to be able to administer the naloxone. So, why not make sure everyone knows how to do it? 

The Jury’s Still Out 

Still in its early stages, the proposed bill may or may not become law. Lawmakers are refining the legislation, and many groups, such as the New Jersey teacher’s union, have yet to weigh in.