Source: Northern Highlands Regional High School
From left to right: Joseph Occhino, the principal of Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, New Jersey, with school nurse Anne Rutkowski and supervisor of health and wellness Steve Simonetti. All have been trained to administer the lifesaving drug Narcan in case of an overdose on school grounds.
Occhino says there hasn’t been a need to use Narcan at his school since its approval, but having it on hand just makes sense. “We all saw what was happening in Bergen County and how widespread the opioid crisis is here and across the country,” he said. “I hope we never have to use it, but if we do, we’re prepared.”
Northern Highlands is just one of a growing number of high schools across the country that is stocking the opioid antidote. Adapt Pharma, the company that makes Narcan, says it has distributed more than 3,300 doses of the drug to high schools around the country for free and in April expanded the program to include colleges and universities. Though there is no comprehensive data that shows how many students overdose while actually on school grounds, the statistics reveal the grip these powerful painkillers have on teenagers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths for teens age 15 to 19 jumped 19 percent between 2014 and 2015, with the majority coming from opioids, specifically heroin.
A few facts about prescription-drug misuse among teens
After marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly misused substances by Americans age 14 and older.
Teens misuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons, such as to get high, to stop pain, or because they think it will help them with school work.
Many teens get prescription drugs they misuse from friends and relatives, sometimes without the person knowing.
Boys and girls tend to misuse some types of prescription drugs for different reasons. For example, boys are more likely to misuse prescription stimulants to get high, while girls tend to misuse them to stay alert or to lose weight.
Source: NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse
The 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2016, included nearly $1 billion for opioid prevention and treatment programs for all 50 states. Half of the money was released last year, and the rest will be administered this year.