The Biden administration on Monday is urging all schools to keep an opioid overdose reversal drug on hand and train staff and students on how to use it, Axios reports. The request is a response to the grim reality that opioid overdoses — particularly those involving illicit fentanyl — have risen rapidly among children and teenager. The reversal drug, naloxone, is highly effective when administered quickly, but it isn't provided in most fatal youth overdoses and may be given incorrectly when it is. The letter from the Department of Education and the White House drug policy office will be sent to every state education agency, intergovernmental groups, and local, state, and national education associations, an Education Department spokesperson said. "Our schools are on the frontlines of this epidemic, but our teachers and students can be equipped with tools to save lives," wrote Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Studies show that naloxone access can reduce the overdose death rate and does not increase youth drug use, they wrote. Narcan, a nasal spray version of naloxone, became the first opioid reversal drug to be made available over the counter this fall. The White House is host a youth substance use prevention summit later Monday. The opioid epidemic is becoming deadlier among children and teenagers. Median monthly overdose deaths among adolescents ages 10-19 increased by 109% between the second half of 2019 and the second half of 2021, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl increased by 182%. The same report found that potential bystanders were present during two-thirds of those deaths, but naloxone was administered in only 30% of them.