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Student survey points to need for opioid overdose treatment on campus, advocates say

2 months 2 weeks 2 days ago Friday, April 05 2024 Apr 5, 2024 April 05, 2024 10:35 PM April 05, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Students advocating for expanded availability of opioid overdose reversal drugs on LSU's campus found in a recent survey that, even without indications of fentanyl and other opioids being widely used by students, many do want quicker access to the life-saving treatment.

Two seniors surveyed nearly 1,000 students on their familiarity with fentanyl, a concentrated synthetic opioid 100 times more potent than morphine, and Narcan, a prescription nasal spray that can stop an opioid overdose death if administered in time. The survey also examined how aware students are of others using several categories of illicit drugs.

It found that most students know people who use marijuana or take unprescribed drugs like Adderall or Vyvanse that treat attention deficit disorder. But more than four out of 10 students said they were not familiar with fentanyl at all or only slightly familiar with it.

Gabriella Jensen, one of the researchers, said students need to be more aware of the risks of fentanyl and trained in how to administer Narcan to someone who has overdosed.

"We need to protect students from fentanyl, and Baton Rouge has a growing fentanyl crisis that is higher than most cities in the United States, and if we cannot protect our students, we're not doing them diligence," Jensen said.

Tonja Myles, a substance abuse counselor, said wide availability of opioid reversal drugs keeps people alive so they have a chance to decide they want treatment and sobriety.

"Every time that I've had to save someone's life when they have overdosed and administer Narcan, it's never easy to watch when you see somebody there who stop breathing, whose body is lifeless, and you have to be quick,” Myles said.

Narcan is available in the LSU Student Health Center, dormitories and at the LSU Police Department. Staff provide it when someone is actively overdosing. Myles says time is of the essence when it comes to overdose.

"If we approach it from a perspective of just in case it happens one minute, three minutes, you know, can be a matter of life and death, and so to have it ready available, you know, is a must,” Myles said.

Narcan is provided to LSU through funding from the Board of Regents, but researcher Ryley Young believes students don't have enough access to it.

"What we're trying to do is make it so that students have access to life-saving medication anywhere on campus in any instance, and they don't have to, you know, go through a lot of red tape to receive that care,” Young said. 

Jenson fears students won't know what to do in the case of an emergency.  

“One of our biggest fears is students studying in the library for an exam and having an overdose and the nearest Narcan is in the Student Health Center and them having to run across campus to go get that Narcan and will they make it in time will they even know where to run that's the question," Jenson said.

Myles's aim is to save as many lives as she can.

"Seeing someone experiencing, you know, coming back to life, if you will, from a drug overdose is gut-wrenching, but it's also gratitude that they are now alive to see another day and hopefully get the help that they need from addiction,” Myles said.

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