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HCOP student organizations sponsor naloxone training class

Student presenting in a classroom

October 31, 2023

AUBURN, Alabama – Students from the Harrison College of Pharmacy recently took part in a naloxone training event. Held on Oct. 18, the class was led by Dr. Greg Peden, Harrison College of Pharmacy Clinical Health Services executive director, and Dr. Trey Johnson, Harrison College of Pharmacy ambulatory care pharmacy resident. The event was sponsored by the American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists (AAPP) and the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP) student organizations.

Opioids and synthetic opioids are a large cause of overdose deaths in the country, and especially in Alabama. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), two thirds of all overdoses nationwide are attributed to synthetic drugs like fentanyl. Alabama saw 835 fentanyl-related deaths in 2022. Numbers have risen steadily, with 121 deaths in 2018 and 428 in 2020. According to Peden, the danger lies in criminal drug networks that mass-produce counterfeit pills and add fentanyl to other drugs to increase potency. Peden noted that drug abusers can never know if the dose they take might be their last.

According to ADPH State Health Officer Scott Harris, MD, MPH, six of 10 counterfeit prescription pills analyzed by the DEA Laboratory in 2022 contained a potentially deadly dose of fentanyl, which is inexpensive to manufacture. A lethal dose of fentanyl is only about 2 milligrams, which is equivalent to a few grains of salt. In addition to pills, fentanyl is found in capsule form and can be disguised as gummies or candies to attract children. Any drug that does not come from either a pharmacy or is prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider can possibly be laced with a deadly dose of fentanyl.

Naloxone, found in the injectable Evzio and nasal sprays RiVive, Narcan and Kloxxado, is a reversal agent administered when someone is exhibiting signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose. Naloxone works to restore respiratory function in overdose victims, allowing them time to be treated by medical professionals and stabilized.

The class session included foundational knowledge of opioids, pertinent brain chemistry, an overview of substance use disorder as a disease state, risk factors, different naloxone agents and their roles in overdose reversal, appropriate emergency response measures, insurance coverage and a background of the standing order and state and national laws as they relate to naloxone.

As part of the training, Peden discussed the symptoms typically experienced by opioid overdose victims, including profuse sweating, constricted pupils (miosis), slow, shallow or labored breathing, unresponsiveness and blue skin from poor blood circulation. One of the most impactful and fascinating parts of the training class was a video that was shown of a man experiencing an overdose. Peden pointed out and discussed in detail the symptoms the individual was experiencing that were consistent with a dangerous opioid overdose.

All students taking the class were included in a bulk order of naloxone, which can be administered in case they witness an opioid overdose. “This training provides students with knowledge about opioid overdose and equips students with naloxone so they are prepared to intervene in life threatening situations,” said Peden. During the class, Peden and Johnson passed around examples of naloxone spray and injectable devices. The single-use nasal spray devices are lightweight and compact and held in between the index and middle finger, while the plunger is dispensed with the thumb. They are similar in nature to nasal allergy spray devices, but smaller.

“I enjoyed giving the training because I feel that it helps people to be prepared to respond in a situation where someone is overdosing on opioids,” said Johnson. “As opioid deaths in the US continue to rise, having people trained to administer aid will be vital to saving lives,” Johnson added.


About the Harrison College of Pharmacy

Auburn University’s Harrison College of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 25 percent of all pharmacy programs in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the College offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. The College's commitment to world-class scholarship and interdisciplinary research speaks to Auburn's overarching Carnegie R1 designation that places Auburn among the top 100 doctoral research universities in the nation. For more information about the College, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.

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Last Updated: November 01, 2023