— -- As the opioid epidemic continues to grow nationally, the company that makes a medication to block the effects of an opioid overdose said it will give a free carton of the antidote to any U.S. high school.
Adapt Pharma, maker of the Narcan nasal spray, announced the move today.
The medication consists of a drug called naloxone, which comes as a nasal spray or injection. It can quickly reverse the dangerous effects of an opioid overdose by binding to important receptors in a person's central nervous system, thus blocking the opioid from depressing the nervous system.
Mike Kelly, president of U.S. Operations at Adapt Pharma, called the decision to give high schools access to the medication a "key milestone."
"This device will equip those in our communities -– families, friends, caregivers and school nurses -- with a tool they can rely on without need for medical training or expertise," Kelly said in a statement.
Opioid addiction has driven an increase in accidental deaths in the U.S. Nearly 19,000 people who took prescription painkillers died in 2014 and another 10,574 individuals died in relation to a heroin overdose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Association of School Nurses adopted a position last year that school nurses should "review local and state policy on how to access naloxone and implement its use as part of their school emergency response protocol."
"Harm reduction approaches to OPR (opioid pain reliever) overdose include expanding access to naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote, which can prevent overdose deaths by reversing life-threatening respiratory depression," the association said in a statement. "When administered quickly and effectively, naloxone has the potential to immediately restore breathing to a victim experiencing an opioid overdose.
The group pointed out that nurses are the first responders during a school emergency and should be ready for drug overdoses.
"Naloxone saves lives and can be the first step toward OPR abuse recovery," association officials said.