In the wake of the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States, the state of Alabama is heralding a project to train school staff with the know-how to treat students suffering from drug overdoses. Ironically, kids across the U.S. have easier access to drugs as they are available in their parents’ cabinets at home, foregoing the need for them to venture out to get these.
Until the beginning of 2019, only school nurses were trained to administer drug overdose treatment in schools. However, as the opioid crisis is spiraling the nation, schools are extending the scope of training to other teaching and non-teaching staff too. The drug overdose medicine, naloxone, has been added to the standard emergency kits in schools in Alabama, along with allergy relieving EpiPens and defibrillators.
How is training conducted?
The first training session was held at a career technical educational center (CTEC) high school in Columbiana, a small town in the center of Shelby County in Alabama. This school specializes in vocational skills and is well equipped with a medical training room comprising of life-sized dummies to be used by students pursuing nursing as a career.
A detailed demonstration is carried out on the dummies to show how easy and fast the treatment administration is. The first step of this training entails calling 911 and giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After this, a prescription treatment for opioid overdose, the Evzio auto-injector, needs to be administered. This can be done by pressing it against the patient’s outer thigh over the clothes. The person rendering the treatment has to hold the auto-injector in place till the automated voice countdown of five seconds finishes.
This entire process takes around a minute and another minute or two is needed by the unconscious patient to revive. Once the patient has revived, they usually feel confused and restless. Hence part of this training entails preparing the teaching staff to deal with this restlessness and shock and help in calming down the patient. They are also given tips to identify signs of a drug overdose.
According to the Alabama department of education, these training sessions are intended to help the teaching staff identify an emergency situation and deal with the panic that usually accompanies such emergency situations.
How are schools reacting to this training regime?
This non-compulsory training scheme, supported by the Alabama Department of Public Health, is being made available in every high school in the state. Jennifer Ventress , a nurse administrator with the health department, said that this training program has generated a lot of interest in schools. The training scheme was kicked off in January 2019 and has already seen 21 local education agencies registering for it. In case further funding can be arranged, the training program would be extended to elementary schools as well.
Amy Mason, principal, Madison County Elementary School, expressed her keenness for this training for her school. Sharing her experience, she stated that in 2015 some high school students were rushed to the hospital when they took prescription drugs in the classroom. Though, they had neither overdosed nor was the drug registered as an opioid, it made her realize the need for such training programs. I wanted to be proactive and not wait for a tragedy to happen before I take action, she said.
State Attorney General Steve Marshall also shared that initially he was hesitant in backing this training scheme as he felt it would encourage increased drug abuse. However, a local doctor gave him the reality check by saying they he would not be able to help dead patients. That was when he realized the significance of this training program and started supporting it.
All Americans urged to carry opioid antidote
The U.S. surgeon general has instructed all Americans to carry naloxone for themselves and their loved ones if they are susceptible to drug overdose. Presently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also considering suggesting physicians to prescribe naloxone along with the opioids for individuals at a higher risk of drug overdose.
Naloxone is easily available as a nasal spray under the brand name Narcan. The drug is an opioid antidote and is already kept handy in various community centers and police stations. It is also easily available in a lot of pharmacies.
Other states to follow suit
This initiative taken by Alabama can be an example for all the U.S. states to undertake similar training programs and set these as a standard procedure in all schools. Taking the lead after Alabama, Florida is considering launching a similar initiative.
The state legislature is all set to pass a bill to allow naloxone to be made available in schools across the state. Jason Pizzo, a Democratic representative of the Florida legislature introduced this bill, presently under consideration. With the passing of this bill, hopefully the level of awareness for deaths related to opioid overdose would be better across all U.S. states.
Teen drug addiction treatment at ADEONA Healthcare
At the moment, the United States is dealing with one of the worst ever drug emergency in the form of the opioid crisis. The disaster has reached a position where apart from posing a severe threat to public health, it is also becoming a burden to the national economy and threatening national security. Fortunately, an addiction to opioids can be treated.
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