Opioid crisis advocacy helps UT SSDP win second chapter award in a row

Savana Dunning

Out of hundreds of U.S. and international chapters, the UT chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy became the first to win the international Most Outstanding SSDP Chapter award for a second time in a row because of their opioid overdose prevention hotline and smartphone application project.

Luis Montoya, Southeast and Southwest Region SSDP outreach coordinator, said this is the first time in SSDP’s 20 year history a chapter has been awarded twice in succession.

“They didn’t just stop at getting medical amnesty for the UT system,” Montoya said. “They are making sure students in their community are able to access appropriate information and appropriate resources should they need it, and (they) really are just going above and beyond.”

Anand Pant, UT SSDP co-president, developed an app which acts as an anonymous data collection synthesizer for the Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative. Users input information about instances where naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdose, was administered, so analysts at TONI can determine what areas are heavily affected by opioid overdose and need the most help.

Distribution of naloxone is privately funded, so the app will help donors see if their money is being used effectively by tracking its usage.

“Private donors need to see that their money is being used effectively, or they’re not going to be willing to donate that money,” said Pant, management information systems senior. “So by getting this data, it will ensure continued access to this medication. It is a life saving medication, it has no recreational value, all it does is save lives.”

The UT SSDP overdose prevention hotline provides information on opioid overdose, naloxone resources and fentanyl — a cheap synthetic opioid, sometimes mixed into other drugs, that’s 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

“Fentanyl is so much cheaper than anything, and it’s synthetic, so you can produce it on your own,” said Allyson Todd, SSDP vice president and international relations and Latin American studies sophomore. “It’s so much cheaper and it’s so active at a low dose, a few grains of fentanyl can be active.”