Recently, we learned that local government officials were moving to stock Narcan — the brand name for naloxone, a synthetic drug that blocks opiate receptors in the central nervous system — in local schools and libraries. We admit it was a shock, but once we got over the initial horror of considering an opioid overdose at an institution serving children, we took comfort in this compassionate response to a scourge.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 107,000 Americans died due to drug overdose in 2021, the last year for which data was readily available. More than two-thirds of those deaths were due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Most striking: The total number of deaths have doubled since 2015. Addressing the opioid crisis in the United States will require compassion, money and the response of everyday citizens who refuse to simply look away.
That is where Narcan comes in. Once available only as an injectable drug, the live-saving compound can now be administered as a nasal spray. That means virtually all of us are able to use the spray to block the deadly effects of opioids during an overdose.
You might be concerned about liability, but California and many other states have "Good Samaritan laws" that protect heroes from prosecution when they are making a good-faith effort to save a life. You might worry that you wouldn’t know what to do in an emergency, which is why anyone with access to Narcan should receive training that may be as easy as watching videos on YouTube or the CDC website that show just how simple it is to administer.
You also might not think such things are necessary here, that the fentanyl crisis is confined to places like the Tenderloin in San Francisco. Sadly, that is not the case. In fact, the Sewer Authority Mid-coastside has been testing for traces of the drug in our wastewater stream, a test similar to those monitoring COVID-19 just a few months ago. While the tests didn’t show unexpected levels of opioids in our wastewater, any trace is alarming enough in our community.
Deadly drug disorders are on the rise in our country. Death due to misuse of stimulants like cocaine, psychostimulants like methamphetamine, and heavy-duty pain relievers like opioids are all up in recent years. We can’t blame the pandemic for this any longer. There are clearly unaddressed mental health, societal and economic issues driving tens of thousands of Americans beyond the brink every year. Narcan — and a willing, trained and empathetic community of people — provides a measure of hope in the darkest hour.
Thank goodness for this miracle drug and the grace of people willing to step forward and lend a hand when it’s needed most. While we hate to think of teachers and librarians having to save lives, we are glad they will have this vital tool should they ever need it.
— Clay Lambert
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