More than 40 students gathered at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in late April to address the opioid epidemic by learning how to administer Naloxone, also known as Narcan, the drug used to treat opioid overdoses.
Sponsored by the Student Opioid Coalition, a team of students that organizes projects to reduce the number of opiate-related deaths in Dayton, the event brought together students from various educational disciplines, including medicine, pre-medicine, nursing, psychology, social work, pharmaceutical medicine and physician assistant studies.
Managed by the Dayton Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Open School, the group recruits students from local health professional institutions and funnels them into projects that support the Community Overdose Action Team, which was established in the fall of 2016 to address the opioid/heroin epidemic in Montgomery County. Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services and Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County are lead agencies in the effort to combat the epidemic.
The training was done in conjunction with Samaritan Behavioral Health and Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone), an Ohio Department of Health community-based overdose education and naloxone distribution program.
“In 2015, 259 people died from drug overdoses in Montgomery County, and this number appears to be increasing,” said Nick Christian, a fourth-year medical student and one of the founders of the Student Opioid Coalition. “By offering this training to health professional students, we are empowering them to save lives.”
Michael Holbrook, president of the Dayton Chapter of IHI Open School and a third-year medical student, was pleased with the turnout.
“Attendees received practical, first-hand instruction on how to handle an opioid overdose and were equipped with the tools necessary for resuscitation,” Holbrook said. “In an area where overdoses are all too prevalent, knowing the signs and symptoms of an overdose and how to administer Naloxone is invaluable.”
Opioid overdose occurs when there is an overwhelming amount of opioids or a combination of opioids and other drugs in the body. Opioids include heroin and prescription pain medications such as fentanyl, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. Opioid overdoses may occur minutes or hours after a person uses drugs.
During the training session, which was led by Colleen Smith, director of substance abuse services at Samaritan Behavioral Health, students learned how to recognize the signs and symptoms of an overdose. When people overdose, their breathing becomes shallow or erratic. Breathing may stop. Their faces become pale or clammy. Fingernails and lips turn blue or purplish black. The pulse is slow, erratic or has stopped. They might make choking sounds or a snore-like gurgling noise. Vomiting, loss of consciousness and unresponsiveness also are signs of an overdose.
Smith urged the participants to spread the word about disposing expired pain medications that are no longer needed.
“The single easiest thing all Ohioans can do to help with the opioid epidemic is to clean out the medicine cabinet,” Smith said. “A lot of people get started on opioids by taking someone else’s medicine.”
The students were instructed on how to perform rescue breathing and how to administer Naloxone. Each student who went through the training was given a Project Dawn Naloxone kit. The kit includes Naloxone nasal spray.
Second-year medical student Joycelyn Akamune chose to attend the training session to learn more about the benefits of having Naloxone on hand.
“I was surprised to learn that so many of my colleagues had seen an overdose here in our community firsthand,” she said. “This training session helped me better understand the seriousness of the opioid epidemic here in Dayton.”
By the end of the training session, first-year medical student Michelle Axe felt prepared to administer Naloxone.
“The nasal form of the drug is especially simple to use and can be easily learned by anyone who is interested,” Axe said. “As a future medical professional and someone who lives in a place that has been affected by the opioid epidemic, this was a good opportunity to learn how to administer Naloxone. I also learned more about the many resources available to people battling addiction in the Greater Dayton area.”
Samaritan Behavioral Health offers free Project DAWN training every Wednesday at noon. For more information, call 937-734-8333. For more information about the Student Opioid Coalition, contact the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.