OPINION | Tulane should have Narcan in dorms

Camille Buckner, Contributing Columnist

(Hailie Goldthorpe)

Substance abuse on university campuses is a nationwide problem, and as the opioid epidemic cripples the United States, some students might feel inclined to try dangerous drugs. Opioids have a high potential for dependence and overdose, and unfortunately, some adolescents may experiment with these substances. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, one in seven young adults suffers from substance use disorder.

Providing students with the necessary education and resources in the event of an emergency and compelling students to be active bystanders are critical in preventing overdoses and combating abuse. Universities across the country have implemented programs and strategies to aid in prevention. Tulane University is no different, but there is still more to be done. 

Naloxone, or brand name Narcan, is a synthetic drug used to temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It works by blocking opiate receptors in the nervous system. Naloxone is FDA approved as a safe, effective tool in temporarily preventing opioid overdose. 

In emergency situations, bystanders can administer Narcan, giving the victim their best shot at survival. Currently, students can access Narcan via the health center pharmacy on campus. Tulane University Police Department and Tulane Emergency Medical Services also carry Narcan. Narcan can also be accessed at pharmacies across Louisiana. The City of New Orleans has a list of specific pharmacies and addresses available on their website. Additionally, Metropolitan Human Services District offers kits and education to the community. 

Tulane freshman Lakeland Gallinson grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire — a capital of the opioid epidemic where Narcan was kept in classrooms. In one instance, a student overdosed. “A student was overdosing in class and my friend’s mom administered Narcan. It totally saved his life,” Gallinson said.

Gallinson concurs that increasing student accessibility to Narcan would have innumerable benefits, with little risk. “I think there are so many positives with zero downsides. There’s a reason [Narcan] is an over the counter medication … maybe on the contrary, people [could] say it encourages drug use, but I feel like most people are not going to [consume] the amount of opioids you would [need] to overdose on just because there was Narcan [accessible],” Gallinson said. 

In the event of an overdose, it is important to administer Naloxone in a timely manner in order to ensure the best chance of survival for the victim. If a student has to travel across campus to the health center to obtain Narcan, or wait for a first responder, it might be too late. Timeliness is urgent in administering Narcan because an overdose shuts down the nervous system, subsequently inhibiting one’s ability to breathe. If a brain goes without oxygen for as little as four to six minutes, the individual will die. It would suit Tulane to make Narcan more conveniently and readily available to students. 

According to Chelsey Reid, the new associate director for The Well for Health Promotion, “There is a collective will at Tulane to offer on-campus education and resource opportunities related to overdose response and prevention,” Reid said. “We are working to create programs and spaces where folks can be informed, resourced and empowered to make the healthiest possible decisions for themselves.” Tulane has clear intentions of expanding resources and overdose prevention strategies.

A good first step is putting Narcan in residence halls. Universities across the United States are already incorporating access to Narcan in dorms on their respective campuses. Ithaca College is an example. According to The Ithacan, in 2019 Ithaca College equipped residence halls with red first-aid boxes containing two doses of naloxone nasal spray, a face shield, a pair of latex gloves and instructions for administering naloxone. 

Equipping campus security guards, particularly those who post at the dorm entry desks, would be an effective way to safely and promptly provide Narcan to students in the event of an emergency. Additionally, Tulane should provide a comprehensive module and/or training course where students can learn how to administer Narcan.

Tulane has already implemented many educational initiatives. Reid explains some: “The Well for Health Promotion offers on-going programs related to alcohol [and] other drugs, including opioids. This year, we increased conversations about opioids during Live Well at Tulane, an AOD educational program offered during New Student Orientation for incoming students. The Well also offers requestable workshops on the topics of opioids, such as The Buzz and Narco Knowledge,” he said.

One way we can all help is by destigmatizing substance use disorder and encouraging those in need of support to seek help. “Validating substance use disorder as a health outcome is an important part of working against the societal stigma that often prevents people from accessing much-needed support,” Reid said.

Being aware of the signs of overdose and knowing how to respond is another way to support. “When you suspect someone may have overdosed, start by checking for responsiveness — shout their name or give them a shake,” Reid said. “Someone experiencing an overdose may be struggling to breathe, so you might hear gurgling or rattling sounds. Their lips and fingernails could be blue or gray and their skin may be pale, cool and clammy.”

Even if you have successfully prevented an overdose, “a person who is impacted by an overdose may need continued medical care, so even if you are trained in overdose response and are able to provide Narcan, it’s important to also call 911 (or TEMs, here on-campus),” Reid said. 

Narcan only temporarily reverses an overdose, so once the effects subside, it is possible that the person would start overdosing again. For this reason, it is imperative that the person be taken to a medical facility for further care. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, reach out to the Tulane Recovery Community where providers can assist you with seeking treatment. “You can go to the Tulane Recovery Community’s website to learn more about programs, resources and weekly meetings,” said Reid. “You’re also welcome to call/text Jacob Goldberg, our staff member who leads this wonderful resource, at 225-202-6342.” Contacting the Health Center or Counseling Center are other great options.

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