The first time I learned about drug addiction I was in my sixth grade health class. I remember being horrified by the negative impacts that came from using drugs, like methamphetamine and heroin. I was confused as to why anyone would ever want to try them, risking health complications or even death.
Since the 1990s, the use of opioids — painkillers that affect the nervous system and can cause dependency — has been on the rise. The influx of the pain medications being prescribed and the ease with which they can be sold to others has led to the current opioid epidemic.
Philadelphia hasn’t been left unscathed by this epidemic. According to The Inquirer, 1,200 overdose deaths are predicted this year.
On Aug. 24, Nora Wilson, a junior printmaking major, hosted a Narcan administration training session to inform students how to recognize and potentially reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Narcan is the brand name version of naloxone, an opioid antidote. About 400 people expressed interest in the event on Facebook, and 15 people actually showed up.
“Even if they can’t come today, or can’t come to any of the events I do, if they just Googled it and watched a YouTube video, they know more than what they knew before, and they could help someone more than they could before,” Wilson told The Temple News.
I used to be horrified that people would use drugs, now I find myself more horrified that we may not be doing all we can to help those struggling with addiction. I only recently learned how to administer Narcan myself by watching a video online.
With the huge impact the opioid epidemic has on Philadelphia, it’s time the university and students pay more attention. The administration should help make students more knowledgeable about opioid overdoses and how to prevent them. And students should take any opportunity they can to further educate themselves on this topic and how to administer the potentially life-saving medication.
“It’s shown by all the statistics that Philadelphia is being haunted by this problem,” said Ellen Unterwald, a pharmacology professor and the director of Temple’s Center for Substance Abuse Research. “Heroin in Philadelphia is very cheap and very pure, and that contributes to the overdoses that occur.”
According to the Boston Globe, Bridgewater State University implemented a new policy that offers “public access to Narcan in locations across campus.” A BSU spokesperson stated that this policy could come in handy in the accidental use of opioids, if students for example “unknowingly [ingest] marijuana laced with fentanyl.”
Having Narcan in various locations on Main Campus would both increase the awareness of the opioid epidemic and potentially save lives.
In 2016, Temple hosted a public symposium for the city’s Drug Overdose Task Force to educate the public about opioid addiction. But the university should remain committed to raising awareness about this issue in any way it can.
It is commendable that TUPD began carrying Narcan in February, but there is more the university could do to raise awareness.
An easy, effective way to make students more aware of opioid addiction would be to include information about opioids and Narcan in the “Think About It” online trainings students are required to take.
“A more widely publicized meeting would be helpful,” Unterwald added. “If the school wants to sponsor an event that talks more about this, that might get the attention of more people.”
Students also have the ability to make an impact, too.
Gov. Tom Wolf worked with Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine to offer a standing prescription for Narcan for all Pennsylvania residents. There is no additional note from a doctor needed.
Students can therefore pick up their own Narcan prescription to have on hand in case they encounter anyone experiencing an overdose.
Having Narcan readily available for everyone in Pennsylvania is a huge step in working to combat the opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of their standing prescription or have the knowledge to administer the antidote.
Thus, we need to continue talking about the opioid epidemic in order to keep people informed and to combat it. It is up to the university and students to draw as many people’s attention as possible to this city-wide issue.