Written by: Frank L. Greenagel Jr., MPAP, MSW, LCSW, LCADC, ACSW, ICADC, CJC, CCS
Frank is an adjunct professor at the Rutgers School of Social Work. He is also an instructor at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies. He writes a blog at greenagel.com. He conducts trainings and delivers keynote speeches around the country. He completed a Masters in Public Affairs and Politics in 2015. He rejoined the Army in 2014 as a Behavioral Science Officer.
I have worked in the addiction field for 12 years. Originally, my clients had problems with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and heroin. In 2005, I came across my first client that was addicted to oxycodone. By 2008, more than 50% of people that I treated identified as having a problem with prescription painkillers or heroin.
I started working at Rutgers University in the spring of 2009 – despite my previous experience at an outpatient agency, I was stunned at how many students were addicted to oxycodone. Rutgers students and their friends outside of school were overdosing at horrifying rates. I was appointed to the NJ Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (GCADA) in 2011 and named the Chair of the Heroin & Other Opiate Task Force in 2012.
I spent much of 2012 listening (and reading) the testimony of parents who lost their children when they overdosed on opiates. Over the last four years, I’ve heard from a parent who lost their child (ages 14 to 29) about once a week. Some of these deaths could have been prevented if Naloxone (the trade name is Narcan) was available.
*picture from recent Overdose Vigil
I’ve read the Task Force Reports from San Diego, Ohio, Nassau County in NY, and Massachusetts (we released our report in 2014). I read about the first states that passed forward-thinking Good Samaritan Laws and Narcan distribution laws. States that passed Naloxone Access Laws or currently have a pilot program have seen a reduction in the number of overdose deaths. A study from 2013 reports that the Naloxone access laws have a high return-on-investment and have a very low cost. Expanded availability of Naloxone is a rare example of a near-costless public policy. It saves lives. No one can make a valid argument that it will increase drug use and/or crime. Since its NJ expansion in June of 2014, the application of Naloxone has saved over 300 lives in one county alone. It is now available without a prescription at CVS in 12 states.
The number of college students that are using, overdosing and dying from opiate use continues to increase at an alarming pace. This is despite the fact that prevention messages have gotten better and that more and more schools are offering recovery programs. It is clear that another policy that should be broadly instituted is the expansion of Naloxone onto college campuses. My advice to schools is that Hall Directors, Resident Advisors, and campus police should be trained on how to use it (and that cops and hall directors should have it on them). It is not a panacea – the expansion of Naloxone should be part of a wide-ranging set of campus policies that, in addition to the aforementioned initiatives, include early identification of substance abuse, expert drug counselors at the counseling center, referral to local detoxes and treatment programs, on-campus 12-step meetings, and more substance-free campus activities.
This article has information from a 2013 policy brief I wrote on Naloxone as well as a piece titled “The Next Step After Narcan” that I published in October of 2015.