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Drugs & Health Blog

Should Schools Be Ready for Opioid Overdoses?

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
The NIDA Blog Team

We’ve mentioned before that teens’ misuse of opioids—either prescription pain relievers or heroin—is declining. That’s terrific! But those who do misuse opioids put themselves at risk for an overdose, and unfortunately, overdoses for teens 15 and older are on the rise. In 2014, 76 young people died from prescription opioid overdoses.

Because the drug naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose, some people want to make it available where a lot of young people can be found: public schools. In most schools in the U.S., if a teen has an overdose, nurses can call 911 and perform rescue breathing until EMS arrives—but when it comes to reversing an opioid overdose, seconds count.

So lawmakers in some states have started to authorize schools to have naloxone handy if they need it. The National Association of School Nurses has endorsed the idea.

Myths vs. Facts

Increasing the availability of naloxone means overcoming misunderstandings about the drug and other measures that can reduce the harm caused by opioid misuse.

For example, some people claim that naloxone might give those who are addicted to opioids a false sense of security, so having it at school might actually make some students more willing to use opioids there. However, studies where naloxone has been made more available found no increase in opioid misuse. For instance, a study that distributed naloxone to actual opioid users and their friends and families in Massachusetts ended up reversing 237 overdoses, without increasing opioid misuse.

Some critics also claim that even if naloxone can reverse an overdose, it doesn’t help the person deal with their underlying addiction. That’s like saying that you shouldn’t revive a person who had a heart attack because a defibrillator doesn’t address their underlying heart disease.

Naloxone is a life-saving measure, not a treatment; saving a life with naloxone enables the person to go on living and hopefully enter treatment to address their addiction. For a person to deal with their addiction, they have to be alive, right?

Easier to Use

Others have said that nurses might not administer the drug correctly because they aren’t trained paramedics or emergency doctors. But naloxone now comes in easy-to-use nasal sprays and auto-injectors that non-medically trained people can use. So there’s no reason to think trained school personnel couldn’t administer it safely.

The American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association both have supported making naloxone available even to family members who can, if necessary, reverse an overdose for a family member who’s taking opioids.

As clear as the case seems to be for making naloxone available in schools, the debate seems likely to go on for a while. What do you think? Should all schools be allowed to have naloxone on hand in case a student overdoses on opioids? What’s your school doing to address the issue?

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Yes, schools should definitely have nalaxone on hand, especially with the rapid spread of opiate use in this country.
It saves lives. Rather than an either or approach - why not do preventitive education/action while also having it on hand in emergency situation. Why would the schools NOT have it?
no they shouldn't instead they should teach students not to use that
Honestly my city hardly ever has problems with drug overdoses in general, so I have no experience for my opinion, but I believe that students should know that it is wrong to abuse opioids. I also believe that there are accidents where people take too much of a prescription, so there should be Naloxone as a precaution.
i thank they should
Opioids can be a very dangerous drug if put in the wrong hands or if it is not used properly. It can be highly addictive, especially in teenagers. During the Teenage years, students become highly vulnerable to peer pressure which can lead them to use drugs. Many students start off with the misuse of Opioids, but often times the abuse of this drug can cause death due to an overdose. Though it does not reverse the addiction, Naloxone can save the life of a student and possibly encourage them to rehabilitate to break the addiction of Opioids. Teenagers are exposed to so much in today’s society, making them highly vulnerable to developing a drug addiction. Though students should be taught not use drugs in the first place, other factors outside of school can encourage them to do otherwise. Since children spend a good amount of their teenage years in schools, providing Naloxone to public schools is a good way to be aware and prepare the school staff for an overdose situation. Yes, having Naloxone can lead students to think that they can rely on it if anything happens, but, as mentioned before, they should still be informed on their effects and why they should not be doing it in the first place. Overdose is not a quick and painless death, and once a student begins to experience it I highly doubt they would like to take that risk again, so the possibility of the student rehabilitating themselves to break this addiction can be increased. One of the main concerns of every public school is the safety of students. They should have anything at their disposal that could ensure the life and safety of their students. When a student’s life is in danger, time is a crucial factor of what determines their life and death, so having all the tools necessary, such as Naloxone, should not be hesitated to provide to the school clinics and staff.

We appreciate your thoughtful comments on the issue of opioid use and providing opioid reversal drugs in schools. Many parents do not believe drugs are an issue with their own child, and don’t think this kind of precaution is necessary. However, we do know that good kids can make poor choices when pressured by their friends. It is important to speak up at local school meetings with your opinions.

The surgeon general say's it can be used on people who aren't overdosed on opioid's as it has no effect if the recipient is not on opioids or overdozed. so, how can it be addictive if it has no effect on a non opioid user?

This is a great question! You’re right: naloxone should not be used on someone who is not overdosing. Nor is naloxone addictive. However, the opioids that naloxone works to reverse the effects of during an overdose can be addictive for some. If you want to learn more about opioids, check out our Opioids Drug Facts page at For more reading on naloxone, check out this blog:

I think they should because of the opioid use has gotten out of control in a lot of states and most likely after the opioids don't work you go too H or well known as heroin witch heroin is already a problem as it is so yes it think schools should have that because of this epidemic
Definitely! As the mother of a 29 year old heroin addict, this drug not only belongs in schools but homes of addicts, in the addicts pocket and should be readily available on every street corner! My son overdosed and luckily was found and 911 was called. He'd be dead now. I think Narcan should be in every 24 hour store and be given to anyone for FREE if a friend has overdosed. Especially in neighborhoods where there is a high amount of drug abuse. All 7-11s, liquor stores, fast food restaurants, any business that is open 24 hours or where addicts like to hang out. My son is in treatment now but I just learned that the state of Florida allows one to get Narcan without a prescription. I plan to get it and keep it here at home even though he's not living here. I even thought I'd just keep it in my purse in case I ever came across someone in trouble. As far as I'm concerned, I think Narcan should be in the hands of everyone! As far as the schools and kids thinking they can abuse opiods because the school nurse has Narcan, that is ridiculous! Kids are going to do what they want regardless. School nurses, teachers and so on should be trained to give Narcan. As far as drug education for students, does that really work. I have 4 children. Here in Florida all of my kids took a drug/alcohol education course, D.A.R.E. It was a big deal. They got a t-shirt and certificate. Did ALL these kids stay away from drugs and alcohol? NO! I'm not against educating kids about drugs but one shouldn't assume that's all that's needed. How about educating teachers about drugs? The signs and symptoms of drug use. I remember going to my son's highschool one morning to drop something off. I saw a friend of his lined up to go on a field trip. He was STONED out of his mind! I couldn't believe any of his teachers or other adults didn't see this and DO SOMETHING! I think they know but turn a blind eye. I asked my son once if the D.A.R.E. program deterred him from using drugs. He laughed. I am VERY passionate about opiod/heroin addiction due to my son. I search my brain every day trying to find answers and how to help these addicts. Narcan is the answer in keeping these people alive but it needs to be available to everyone and everywhere! Yes, educate the kids, starting in elementary school, then middle school and high school. Educate the teachers. Send materials home for parents. I think kids should be randomly drug tested in middle and high school. This is a national CRISIS! But let's keep these kids alive first! Then we can get treatment for them.

We are sorry to hear about your son's addiction, but glad to know that he is in treatment. Thank you for sharing your story, and for your thoughtful comments. If you’d like to share more insights with NIDA on topics like this, we’d like to hear from you. Our Parent Advisory Group meets online 3-4 times per year to discuss how NIDA can reach more people with information and resources, and to collect feedback on our materials. If you’re interested in joining this group, please contact us at

Amen. You are spot on. My son is a heroin addict who overdosed also. We need to treat Narcan like AED's, which are required in all public gathering places in all 50 states. Narcan should be in every high school. The initial dose is free. After that, it would cost each school about $100 per year to stock Narcan (due to shelf life). I have already researched this because I would like it stocked in each high school in my own state. We need to respond to this epidemic appropriately because it is happening whether we like it or not. Your comments hit home for me because I could have written them myself. Spoken like a parent who has truly endured the hell of heroin addiction. It's unfortunate that our tribe is growing larger and larger but this means we need to get louder to make this happen. Too many of our kids are dying. Narcan needs to be, as you say, available everywhere.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. If you’d like to share more insights with NIDA on topics like this, we’d like to hear from you! Our Parent Feedback Group meets online 3-4 times per year to discuss NIDA’s materials and how NIDA can reach more people with our information and resources. If you’re interested in joining this group, please contact us at

I believe that the schools should have full access to naloxone and it shouldn't be a problem to have , after reading this article it sounded like people were questioning if a child should keep their life or not

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