College Offers Potentially Life-Saving Drug to Counter Overdose Effects

According to the Centers for Disease Control, two-thirds of the nation's drug deaths involved opioids. The percentage is much lower in Texas, but rising. The crisis is serious enough that University of North Texas recently began offering a medication that could save lives.

It has been referred to as the "third wave" in the opioid epidemic. The drug "fentanyl" has sparked nationwide concern amidst a spike in drug-related deaths -- nearly 48,000 deaths in 2017, attributed to heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioids.

"Opioid addiction has become a big problem over the last several years," said Dr. Herchel Voorhees, executive director of campus health and wellness at UNT.

Earlier this school year, the pharmacy at UNT began offering a nasal spray version of Naxalone, which offsets overdose symptoms, to students -- without a prescription. Laws which allow the sale are designed to make Narcan, the drug's brand name, available to family members or friends of people who are at risk of an overdose, or the person themselves.

"Narcan works as an antagonist to the opioid drug," said Voorhees. "To reverse the symptoms of someone who's overdosing."

Each UNT police patrol car is already equipped with Narcan, a practice in place for a few years now. It's used not only in reviving an overdose victim, but anyone who may come in contact with dangerous opioids.

"The bottom line is Narcan can save a life," he said.

Despite the availability of Narcan, Dr. Voorhees said to date, not a single dose has been sold at the UNT pharmacy.

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