This semester, Ithaca College began training its resident assistants and other interested students to use Narcan to potentially aid students who overdose on opiates. The training is largely a preventative measure — no one at the college has ever died from an opiate overdose, and the percentage of students who have reportedly used opiates while at the college is low.
But even though the percentage of students who are using illegal opiates is rising slowly, it is still rising, and the risk students are at for overdosing is as well. The addition of Narcan to an RA’s resources to help their residents on campus is an appropriate and responsible response to the rise in opiate usage on campus and nationally. Even if one student’s life is saved from an RA carrying Narcan, the money and resources spent to provide and train RAs will be worth it.
By making Narcan training available on campus, the college is changing how the campus community and the general public view opiate abusers. Given the stigmas surrounding illegal drug usage, the first image that comes to mind when thinking about a drug abuser is not typically a college student. By emphasizing that Narcan is a valuable tool for saving someone’s life, the college is challenging the traditional rhetoric surrounding drug abuse and reminding members of the campus community that drug abusers can be their peers and that they may be in need of help.
By challenging the traditional opiate abuse rhetoric, the college is portraying opiate addiction as what it truly is: a medical epidemic. The college is also showing members of the community that it is an epidemic they can be proactive about and help curb. The training is not only available to RAs — the college will also offer courses to other students on how to use Narcan to reverse an overdose.
While the college deserves recognition for taking preventative measures with the Narcan training, it should be wary of placing the burden of reversing overdoses on people who are not medical professionals. Being responsible in a life-or-death situation is a daunting task, especially for RAs and other college students. Though empowering the community to take action against opiate abuse is beneficial, the college should make sure its approach to implementing Narcan is not too exacting for the student body.