Narcan: An Appropriate Solution for Schools?

By Caitlin Hoeing & Agostino D’Ancona

According to the CDC, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137% since 2000, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids. Opioid use has become an epidemic across the United States because of how cheap and readily available it is to young adults. Naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, is a drug that reverse the effects of opioid overdose. It is administered to those who overdose on opioids, specifically heroin, as an injection through the nasal cavity.  Nationwide, the drug overdose death rate has more than doubled during the past decade among people aged 12 to 25 — rising from 3.1 deaths per 100,000 in 1999-2001 to 7.3 deaths in 2011-2013.  


In response to this epidemic, Governor Tom Wolf announced on February 1, 2016 that his administration partnered with Adapt Pharma to provide the naloxone drug to all schools in PA.  Each school will receive Narcan after the PSBA (Pennsylvania School Board Association) establishes police policy and guidelines for the schools.  Narcan will most likely be stored in the nurse’s office due to the fact that it must stay at room temperature at all times.  Administrators, school resource officers, and school nurses will be trained and certified to administer Narcan.  Mrs. Morningstar, current principal at Salisbury High School, has been in education for 20 years, 9 of which are in Salisbury Township.  She feels that there is a need for Narcan to be present schools because, “What evidence is showing us is that with proper training, it can save lives.”  Mrs. Morningstar specifically doesn’t see the need for Narcan in Salisbury High School; however, she understands that statistically, students at SHS do have problems with opioid addiction.  She is also aware of people in the community who have substance abuse problems and knows former students who have died from an overdose.  

In the entire US, Pennsylvania is the second leading state with the most opioid overdoses.  Law enforcement in PA has seen the need for the presence of Narcan not only in police departments, but also in schools.  Even though there doesn’t seem to be a need for Narcan in the majority of PA schools, opioids are present in the surrounding communities, which make it more readily available to students.  Officer Nothstein, the SHS resource officer, stated that opioids are “not a big problem in school but there are many township fatalities.”  In his 20 years as a police officer, he has worked in Carbon County, which has a large majority of opioid overdoses.  He himself has never administered Narcan, but has seen its results firsthand. Most recently, the Salisbury Township Police Department was recognized in Harrisburg for being the first department in PA to administer Narcan to save someone’s life.  Evidence shows that with Narcan’s presence in PA, it can save many lives.


Narcan is a revolutionary antidote that results in saving lives.  When administered, it reverses the overdose immediately, stopping the individual from possible death.  Narcan doesn’t only work for heroin overdoses, it also acts to stop all opioid overdoses.  It can be administered very easily through the nasal cavity by those who are certified, ensuring that it is properly administered.  Narcan is a life-saving drug that is a step to ending opioid overdoses, however, it can’t end drug addiction.  After being administered, it sends the individual into immediate withdrawal and causes them to become irrational and violent because they are not aware of what happened.  This is a great antidote, but it can only work on opioid overdoses. Even though there may be some slight doubts about Narcan, it is an innovative, life-saving drug.

There has been a large increase in deaths due to opioid overdoses.  In 2013, more than 16,000 deaths in the US involved prescription opioids, and more than 8,000 others were related to heroin. With Narcan now becoming readily available to schools and police departments, the number of deaths each year should decrease. This epidemic could cease to exist in PA in future years.  Narcan’s instrumental abilities to save someone’s life is a necessity to PA residents.


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