Last week, CHSU College of Pharmacy P3 students learned how to administer naloxone nasal spray used to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose. They were taught how to recognize the symptoms of an overdose, administer the nasal spray, and provide care after the individual regains consciousness – critical skills necessary to help combat the opioid epidemic.
While the medical community and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have made efforts to change the way opioids are prescribed for pain management, the reality is that approximately 66% of all drug overdoses are caused by opioids. And with over 130 people a day dying in the US from opioid-related drug overdoses, there is a critical need for more future pharmacists to know how to administer this lifesaving drug.
Earlier in 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created and approved the packaging for the first generic naloxone nasal spray (commonly known as Narcan), changing the way the medical community is fighting opioid overdoses. Naloxone comes in three FDA-approved formulations, but the most portable and affordable way is the prepackaged nasal spray. It can be obtained from any community pharmacy without a prescription, and while only Board licensed pharmacists who have completed the naloxone training can dispense it, anyone can administer the nasal spray.
As professionals, CHSU pharmacy students will be dispensing naloxone to community members at risk of an opioid overdose and to family members of patients at risk. Part of that responsibility includes mandatory counseling on overdose prevention, recognition, response and administration of naloxone.
“Our students will be on the front lines of the opioid epidemic during their training and as they move into their professional careers. In addition to dispensing and training others, our students working in a community pharmacy setting may be called upon to administer naloxone themselves and those in a hospital setting may have to administer it in response to a medical emergency,” says Sydnei Fox, PharmD, College of Pharmacy Assistant Professor of Clinical Sciences, “After our class training, students reported that they felt more comfortable with their knowledge about opioid overdose and in administering naloxone nasal spray.”
Trainings like the one CHSU pharmacy students completed are starting to become more prominent in the Fresno community, teaching non-first responders and the general public about the growing opioid epidemic, in addition to how to administer the naloxone nasal spray when they recognize the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose. Dr. Fox hopes to use feedback from students to further refine the training in order to make it easier for the general public to comprehend and retain.
In addition to attending trainings, the local community can aid in the control of the opioid crisis by:
- Storing opioid medications securely out of the reach of children and pets.
- Disposing of unneeded opioid medications at a designated collection drop box in various locations throughout Fresno County.
- Acquiring and learning how to use naloxone if a member of your household or family is taking opioids.
- Supporting programs that dispense naloxone to at-risk members of our community.
- Downloading the opioid safety guide created by the Central Valley Opioid Safety Coalition and keeping it as a reference.
There are also several local resources for those suffering from opioid addiction and seeking treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration offers a treatment services locator that is a confidential and anonymous source of information for persons seeking treatment facilities.
“As a result of last week’s training and their overall study of substance use disorder, our students have grown immensely as future pharmacists,” says Dr. Fox, “They were challenged to review their mindset about patients with substance use disorder and they will all be assets to our medical community as they treat patients with this disorder in the future.