May 4, 2023 - Education

Schools in the D.C. area are adding Narcan to combat opioid overdoses

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Naloxone is becoming more prevalent in D.C.-area public school districts, as campuses look to counter a recent sharp rise in youth opioid overdoses.

The big picture: The medication, also known by the brand name Narcan, was used in only 30% of recorded adolescent overdose deaths nationwide between July 2019 and December 2021, according to the CDC.

  • Monthly overdose deaths increased by 65% during that time.

What’s happening: By the end of this month, Arlington will be the latest county in the region to allow students to bring their own supply of the overdose-reversing drug.

  • Administrators and school safety coordinators there already carry naloxone, and emergency boxes of it are stocked in middle and high schools, a schools spokesperson tells Axios.

State of play: Prince George’s and Alexandria counties let students carry the medication with a doctor’s note — though Alexandria doesn’t let students administer it to other students. In Fairfax County, students who are 18 or older can carry naloxone if they’ve completed an approved training program.

  • Staff at Prince George’s, Arlington, Montgomery, Alexandria, Fairfax, and D.C. public school districts do carry naloxone.

Zoom in: Montgomery County reported 11 youth overdose deaths last year compared to five in 2021. A spokesperson for the school district tells Axios that naloxone has been administered on school property in the past.

Zoom out: Narcan has become more accessible in recent years, with the FDA allowing it over the counter.

  • Arkansas recently passed a law requiring public schools in the state to have Narcan on campus. Minnesota is considering a similar law.
  • Today, Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips will unveil legislation that would incentivize stocking naloxone in schools nationwide.

What we’re watching: Local districts are looking into ways to increase the number of people who can use Narcan.

  • Prince George’s County says it’s preparing to train bus drivers to use it. Other districts have recently held naloxone training for students, parents, and staff.
  • Montgomery County says it's revising its policy to be more specific about whether students can carry the medication.

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