DePaul continues Narcan initiatives


Tiffinee Scott shows some pictures to reporters, including one of the many pill bottles her daughter had accumulated before her death, after making a statement during a hearing in New York, Thursday, March 10, 2022. Scott said “After Tiarra’s passing, I collected countless pill bottles-filling a king size bed in a bag.” (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

DePaul is continuing its Narcan initiatives from 2019 by offering Narcan training sessions from the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) to students and faculty.

Narcan is the brand name for the drug naloxone, an opioid antagonist. It’s available in every building on campus in defibrillator cases. Narcan is a potentially life-saving drug due to its ability to treat opioid overdoses, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

“It is the only medication that will actually do what it does,” sociology professor Greg Scott told The DePaulia. “It is the front-line medication for the intervention of opioid-involved overdoses.”

DePaul’s Narcan training ensured that faculty, staff and students could recognize the signs of an opioid overdose and administer the drug correctly. Rita Mookerjee, Ida B. Wells-Barnett Postdoctoral Fellow in African and Black Diaspora Studies, was one of the faculty members in attendance.

Mookerjee said that she wanted to attend the training because of how prevalent opioid addiction has become in the U.S., especially with the Covid-19 pandemic taking a toll on mental health.

“We’re all vulnerable to addiction,” she said. “Anyone can get hurt or become ill and find themselves abusing or using substances that they didn’t think were going to be a part of their lives.”

Through sessions like DePaul’s Narcan training, Mookerjee hopes that the general public will be more educated and willing to help those affected by the opioid crisis.

“I think that the threat of this kind of addiction is very imminent,” Mookerjee said. “The only way we can really start to respond to that appropriately is if we shake some of that stigma off.”

Narcan is available in two forms: as a nasal spray and as an injection.

The Illinois Department of Public Health offers Narcan injections for free to residents. DePaul’s training walked participants through the administration of the nasal spray rather than the injection, since it is simpler to administer and easier to carry on one’s person.

The training also taught participants how to recognize the signs of an overdose, and how to act accordingly.

“The facilitator broke down the warning signs and the steps really clearly,” Mookerjee said. “Going into the training, I knew what naloxone was and how it worked… but I didn’t really know what you should look for in a person, for those signs. That was really helpful.”

Recognizing these signs of an overdose is crucial to administer proper care. Small pupils, gray and cold clammy skin, blue or purple lips or fingertips, slow breathing or no breathing and appearing unresponsive are all potential symptoms, according to HPW.

Scott explained that a good way to test a person’s responsiveness is to introduce a pain stimulus by rubbing one’s knuckles along the person’s gumline or sternum. Mookerjee confirmed that this was part of DePaul’s training as well.

“The research is very clear that the presence of naloxone and people trained on how to use it reduces the rate of fatal overdose,” Scott said.

But Scott argues that institutions like DePaul should go even further.

“I think it’s unconscionable for any institution, particularly a university or college in the state of Illinois, where injectable naloxone is available free of charge… There’s no excuse for DePaul not to be providing naloxone to every single student, faculty member and staff member,” Scott said. “I think it should be a part of your welcome kit when you become a student at DePaul.”

According to Cheryl Hover, associate director of emergency management, DePaul’s public safety personnel have carried Narcan for preventative measures since 2019.

“Over 100 staff members have received training in administering [Narcan] doses,” Hover said.

Chicago Public Libraries also carry Narcan in 14 branches and plan to expand into other areas.

Opioid deaths were up significantly in 2021 from years past. The CDC reported that more than 100,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose between May 2020 and April 2021 — nearly a 29 percent increase from the prior 12 months.