By Stephen Appelblatt
With 781 deaths in New Jersey in 2014, heroin-related overdoses have become a more common cause of death than car accidents in the state, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With the increase from four drug-related incidents at Rider in 2012 to 23 in 2013, many colleges, including Rider, stock naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, a medication used to treat drug overdoses, in support of the campus community.
“The naloxone kit is another tool for Rider’s public safety officers to carry as we continue to incorporate best practices,” said Vickie Weaver, head of Public Safety. “While we recognize that most of our drug incidents deal with marijuana, our proactive approach prepares us for responding to drug-related medical emergencies that may go beyond the use of marijuana.”
As a result of the sky-rocketing rate of overdose deaths, efforts have been made to raise awareness and save lives by organizations such as The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation (TOPAC). TOPAC had successfully pushed a law to address the epidemic in New Jersey and seeks to promote the resources available as a result of the 2013 bill, The Overdose Prevention Act (OPA).
“At the time, there was no Good Samaritan law to protect someone from being arrested if they were under the influence,” said TOPAC CEO and president Paul Ressler.
The medication Narcan is essential in many heroin and opioid drug overdoses because it reverses the effects the drugs take on the body. The medication can be found in emergency overdose response kits and in many cases it saves lives.
Nationally, there is also a push to make naloxone more accessible to law enforcement officers and families of addicts. Although it is not available to police departments in every state, the medication can be prescribed by any medical professional.
While the national heroin overdose death rate is not nearly as high as the rate in New Jersey, a CDC study shows that the number of people dying from an overdose in the United States has nearly tripled since 2002. The same research shows that the number of people using the drug has more than doubled among people ages 18-25 over the same time period.
With heroin usage becoming a larger problem amongst young people, there has been a focus on addressing the problem on college campuses. One such program, The Jed and Clinton Health Matters Campus Program, seeks to address substance abuse and mental health on college campuses.
The program’s nine-part framework is followed by nearly 100 schools across the country, according to its website.