Schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District will soon be equipped with doses of naloxone, a drug used to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho announced Thursday.
The district’s announcement comes after Los Angeles police reported multiple overdoses among local high school students, including one who died and another hospitalized after they were found on a high school campus last week, police said in a statement. communicated.
Carvalho told a press conference that the district had been “deeply affected” by recent drug incidents, which he attributed to “an unacceptable level of availability of narcotics and opioids in our community.” .
“We have an urgent crisis on our hands,” the superintendent said in a separate statement. “Research shows that the availability of naloxone along with overdose education is effective in reducing overdoses and deaths – and will save lives. We will do everything in our power to ensure that no other student in our community from falling victim to the growing opioid epidemic.
Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, is a fast-acting drug that can reverse the effects of opioids like fentanyl and heroin and help restore a person’s normal breathing, according to the CDC. Naloxone generally works to combat an overdose for about 30 to 90 minutes, according to the National Institutes of Health, so immediate medical attention should always be sought.
Naloxone can be given as an injection or nasal spray and is not harmful if given to someone who is not experiencing an opioid overdose, according to the CDC.
The district currently has enough doses to supply its high schools, a process that will unfold over the next two weeks, it said in the statement. As new doses are received, they will be distributed to other campuses, the district said.
District police officers will also carry doses of the treatment, Carvalho said.
In an effort to prevent overdoses before they happen, Carvalho said the district’s initiative also includes peer-to-peer outreach and education programs for parents.
District staff, such as nurses, wellness center providers and trained volunteers, are already trained or will be trained to administer the treatment, and the district will work to develop training and education for the school community, he said.
Teenage deaths from drug overdoses have risen dramatically in recent years, according to a study published in the journal JAMA this year that found teenage overdoses doubled from 2010 to 2021. More than 75% of deaths per overdose of adolescents in 2021 involved fentanyl, according to the study. .
With teen drug use at an all-time low, the spike in overdose deaths is likely not the result of more teens using drugs, but of the increasing risks of the drugs themselves, said one of the study’s authors.
“It’s not coming from more teenagers using drugs. It’s actually coming from drug use becoming more dangerous,” said study author Joseph Friedman, a researcher in medicine and medical informatics at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Overdose deaths also present a much broader and growing problem in the United States. The CDC estimates that fatal overdoses in 2021 increased by 15% compared to 2020. From 2019 to 2021, the increase was estimated at 30%.