Schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District will soon be equipped with doses of naloxone, a drug used to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid drug overdoses, Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho announced Thursday.
The district’s announcement comes after Los Angeles police reported multiple overdoses among local high school students, including one who died and another who was hospitalized after they were found on a high school campus last week, the police said in a release.
Carvalho said during a news conference that the district has been “deeply impacted” by the recent drug incidents, which he attributed to “an unacceptable level of availability of narcotics and opioids in our community.”
“We have an urgent crisis on our hands,” the superintendent said a separate statement. “Research shows that the availability of naloxone along with overdose education is effective at decreasing overdoses and death–and will save lives. We will do everything in our power to ensure that not another student in our community is a victim to the growing opioid epidemic.”
Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, is a fast-acting drug that can reverse the effects of opioids like fentanyl and heroin and help restore a person’s normal breathing, according to the CDC. Naloxone typically works to combat an overdose for about 30 to 90 minutes, according to the National Institutes of Health, so immediate medical attention should still be sought out.
Naloxone can be administered as an injection or nasal spray and is not harmful if given to somebody who is not experiencing an opioid overdose, the CDC says.
The district currently has enough doses to supply its high schools, a process which will be done over the next two weeks, it said in the release. As more doses are received, they will be distributed to other campuses, the district said.
District police officers will also carry doses of the treatment, Carvalho said.
In an effort to prevent overdoses before they happen, Carvalho said the district’s initiative also includes peer-to-peer awareness raising and education programs for parents.
District staff such as nurses, wellness center providers and trained volunteers are already trained or will be trained to administer the treatment, and the district will work on developing training and education for the school community, it said.
Adolescent deaths from drug overdoses have increased dramatically in recent years, according to a study published in the journal JAMA this year which found that teen overdoses doubled from 2010 to 2021. More than 75% of adolescent overdose deaths in 2021 involved fentanyl, the study found.
With drug use among teens at a historic low, the soaring overdose deaths are likely not the result of more adolescents using drugs, but of the increasing risks the drugs themselves, one of the study’s authors said.
“This is not coming from more teens using drugs. It’s actually coming from drug use becoming more dangerous,” said study author Joseph Friedman, a researcher studying medicine and medical informatics at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Overdose deaths also present a much wider and growing problem across the US. The CDC estimates that fatal overdoses in 2021 increased 15% from 2020. From 2019 to 2021, the increase was an estimated 30%.
CNN’s Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.