Health Department Takes Bold Action, Providing Naloxone to Schools Amidst Rising Opioid Overdoses

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Naloxone to Schools Amidst Rising Opioid Overdoses

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is sounding the alarm on the alarming rise in opioid-related drug overdose deaths, particularly among young people. According to the department’s data, opioid-related fatalities among adolescents aged 14-18 have surged nearly threefold from 3.6 per 100,000 individuals in 2016 to 10.6 per 100,000 individuals in 2022. The increase is largely attributed to the proliferation of synthetic opioids like fentanyl in the illegal drug supply.

In response to the urgent situation, the DOH is taking proactive measures by providing naloxone to all public high schools across the state. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a safe and effective medicine capable of reversing the harmful effects of an opioid overdose, including those caused by potent substances like fentanyl.

Naloxone is available in a nasal spray, making it easy to administer to anyone during a suspected opioid overdose. Importantly, it has no harmful effects, even if opioids are not present in the individual’s system.

To implement this initiative, the DOH is collaborating with Educational Service Districts to offer two kits of intranasal naloxone to all public comprehensive and alternative high schools in the state. While this offer is voluntary, it aligns with Washington state law, which mandates school districts with 2,000 students or more to stock at least one set of opioid overdose reversal medication in each high school. Smaller school districts can also opt to obtain and maintain naloxone in their schools.

Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, Chief Science Officer and board-certified pediatrician, emphasized the importance Naloxone to Schools Amidst Rising Opioid Overdoses as a practical strategy to safeguard students from opioid overdose risks. He highlighted the dangers associated with experimenting with substances, particularly counterfeit pills containing potentially fatal amounts of fentanyl. Providing access to naloxone is not only a life-saving measure but also sends a powerful message about caring for the health of the youth.Naloxone to Schools Amidst Rising Opioid Overdoses

Naloxone to Schools Amidst Rising Opioid Overdoses

Individuals and families can acquire naloxone over the counter or from a pharmacy using the statewide standing order, acting as a prescription for anyone in the state at risk of witnessing or experiencing an opioid overdose. The DOH website offers information on preventing and responding to drug overdoses, including resources on addressing fentanyl concerns when talking with teens. The “Prevent Overdose WA” campaign aims to inform Washingtonians about opioid and fentanyl risks, highlighting the potency of naloxone in reversing overdoses. Additionally, DOH’s Opioid and Drug Overdose Data and Unintentional Drug Overdose Data dashboards provide valuable insights for addressing substance use in the state.

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