NJ gets bill to fight opioid overdoses in schools and prisons

Opioid abuse has become a national catastrophe with about 42,000 Americans succumbing to it in 2016 alone. Though there was a 30 percent increase in the opioid overdose death rate during 2016-2017, the number of deaths varied from state to state. One of the states to be hit the hardest was New Jersey (NJ). Unfortunately, in NJ, there have been 654 overdose deaths since Jan. 1, 2018 among people aged 12 to 25 years. A sizeable chunk of this figure included young people and inmates. In response to such devastating consequences, the state government decided to pass a legislation that would use medications like naloxone, methadone and naltrexone for the prevention as well as reversal of overdoses caused by opioids.

Naloxone is the most commonly used medication to reverse an opioid overdose. Now a bill, set to be passed by the legislators, would require forming policies to train nurses to administer the drug in all schools from grades 9 to 12. The schools would also be required to keep a steady supply of the medication.

Need for training

When a person overdoses, his/her breathing slows or stops. Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, helps restore normal respiration by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and blocking the effects of other opioids. Narcan is a non-addictive drug and works only if individuals have opioids in their system.

Typically, naloxone should be administered intravenously, intramuscularly or subcutaneously. Once it is administered, the narcotic effects of any opioid in a person’s body are completely reversed. This can result in acute withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, violent shivering, or even cardiac arrests. Therefore, it becomes imperative that anyone who administers naloxone should be well trained.

Hence, the bill emphasizes training all nurses for the proper administration of naloxone. Currently, the bill has been approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Once it becomes a law, school nurses and other employees will be immune from any liability arising from casualties consequent to the performance of a drug reversal.

Naloxone is important for inmates also

Another bill that will make opioid antagonists like naloxone available for inmates was also reviewed by the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee of NJ. Under the bill, inmates about to be released should be offered naloxone and naltrexone by their respective correctional facilities. Naltrexone, also known as Vivitrol, is another medication used for the treatment of a substance-use disorder. It helps people recovering from opioid dependence by helping them manage their withdrawal symptoms, control urges and prevent a relapse.

Although medications help block the sedative and lethal effects of opioids or their overdose, the problem is far from being over. The easy availability and addictive nature of opioids make them prone to abuse.

Drugs and crime a vicious cycle

Dependence on opioids or any drug is a matter of concern. At an individual level, people addicted to drugs are more susceptible to suffer from mental disorders while at the social level, drug-induced crimes are on the rise. Drug-driven crimes lead people to an inevitable cycle of incarcerations and relapses. It is therefore, important that persons battling an addiction receive proper treatment and care instead of jail terms.

If you or your loved one has been charged with or convicted for a drug-related offense, Sovereign Court services can help. Sovereign Health’s Court Services Division assists such people get permission to attend a drug rehab program in lieu of a jail term. To know more about our services and benefit from them, call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-439-7698. Our representatives will offer immediate assistance.

March 30, 2018

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