Opioid overdose is an increasingly common issue among young adults, but Student Government unanimously passed a resolution last Tuesday that would allow the University to provide a lifesaving drug in the event of an emergency.
Opioid overdoses increased by 14 percent between 2013 and 2014 nationally, resulting in more than 28,000 deaths in the United States. The drug Naloxone has been used since 1971 to save the lives of overdose victims and has no potential for abuse or fatal overdose and can be administered with little training, according to the resolution.
The resolution aims to provide Naloxone to resident assistants and UTPD officers. The drug is available by nasal spray and intramuscular injection.
Stephanie Hamborsky, co-author of the resolution and president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said she thinks the resolution is particularly relevant to a university setting.
“Opioid overdose has increased in the past few years, especially in 18–24 year olds,” Hamborsky said. “With the epidemic of opioid overdose increasing, we think this is a really good preventative step.”
Hamborsky, a biology and Plan II senior, said she thinks the main obstacle in implementing the resolution is finding the funds to make the drug available.
“We have the pharmacist and head physician at University Health Services who are willing to help us obtain the standing order,” Hamborsky said. “We still have to understand how we’ll pay for it, whether it be through institutional funding or a grant. Naloxone isn’t particularly cheap.”
Hamborsky said the resolution’s authors will have a meeting with UT administration at the end of May to discuss logistics.
“We’re bringing together a lot of people in an institution to make sure this can happen,” Hamborsky said. “We’re doing a lot of media outreach, and we’re all getting the word out and making sure people know about this. We want to start conversations about Naloxone in general because a lot of people don’t know what it is. Education is our focus right now.”
UTPD does not currently carry Naloxone, Hamborksy said, and there is no standard protocol for overdoses on campus.
Steve Lam, advertising junior and Jester East resident assistant (RA), said he heard about Naloxone during an RA training session and thinks the UT community should be aware of the drug overdose issue.
“People need to know about the problem at hand and that there are treatments that can be used to counter overdose if they ever face the situation,” Lam said.
Lam said he thinks having Naloxone available would be beneficial in the event of an emergency.
“I’m not sure how frequently [opioid overdose] happens on our campus, but I do believe we have a drug dilemma,” Lam said. “It would be nice to have [Naloxone] in the hands of all first responders until other medical personnel arrive on scene.”
Lam said he thinks the biggest obstacle in implementing this resolution is the debate over whether providing Naloxone encourages drug use.
“The idea here is to save lives,” Lam said. “People can’t seek treatment if they are dead. Naloxone gives people another chance to get help if they choose.”
UT spokesperson Rhonda Weldon said UTPD is aware of the use of Naloxone by Emergency Medical Services.
“We will review the SG resolution to determine the feasibility of implementing this practice within the department,” Weldon said.