Student Group Prevents Opiate Overdose Deaths With Free Trainings



Naloxone is an antidote that can treat narcotic overdoses. The NYU Students for Sensible Drug Policy Organization has been raising awareness for drug safety by training other students how to effectively use Naloxone in times of emergency.

Tiffanie Hwang, Staff Writer

New York was one of a handful of states that saw a statistically significant increase in deaths due to opiate overdoses in 2015, according to the CDC. The NYU Students for Sensible Drug Policy Organization has recently worked to combat this trend and raise awareness for drug safety by organizing training sessions on campus to teach other students how to effectively use Naloxone, an antidote to opioid overdoses.

An opioid is a drug derived from alkaloids, such as morphine and codeine, that act chemically on nerve cell receptors in the body and brain. Heroin is a very popular opioid.

According to Gallatin freshman and vice president of the club Jo BenOmar, if someone has taken opioids and is not breathing, another person can administer Naloxone, which can reverse the overdose almost immediately and help the victim regain consciousness and respiratory function.

“You can administer Naloxone either as an intramuscular injection — which means straight into the muscle [so] you don’t have to find a blood vessel, for example — or as a nasal spray,” BenOmar said. “[Naloxone] prevents opioid molecules in the brain from interacting with the receptor in a way that produces respiratory depression. Naloxone gets into and stuck in that receptor, doesn’t trigger that response and doesn’t allow heroin or morphine to produce that response from the overdose.”

The NYU SSDP conducted two training events to teach NYU students how to safely administer the drug in 2016 and plan to do two more this year, with the next being held on April 27, according to the group. They are partnering with Voices of Community Activists and Leaders, a local organization that fights against addiction. VOCAL will lead the session and distribute Naloxone kits for students to take with them once they are certified.

CAS junior and SSDP treasurer Noel Gooding believes that getting students trained is a matter of life and death.

“[Opioid abuse] is a local issue since there’s such a huge rate of addiction,” Gooding said. “We think this is very important and offer this free training, working with VOCAL New York, [which] does a lot of different programs for people with addiction and harm reduction. The trainings are extremely easy and useful.”

NYU students can easily increase awareness of the opioid epidemic by taking part in the organized training sessions that last two hours. Steinhardt senior and SSDP president Alexander Lekhtman believes that NYU’s open campus makes it even more important for students to get trained.

“Opioid use is prevalent now in so many different parts of the country that it really is a very small investment to take the 20 minutes to get trained to use [Naloxone], get this kit and carry around with you wherever you are,” Lekhtman said. “Especially since we’re in New York City, there’s a lot of crazy things happening where you least expect it, so I think you should approach it [from] the angle of ‘you never know when you’ll find someone in need or having an emergency.’”

The training session is open to all NYU students and they can sign up online. A limited number of spots are available.

Email Tiffanie Hwang at [email protected].