Baltimore health organization teaches students how to save lives during an opioid overdose

By Victoria Ebner

Harriet Smith, part of an organization working to combat overdoses, discusses a powerpoint on the leading modern cause: opioids. Photo by Victoria Ebner

Ten years ago, Harriet Smith, executive director at Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition, witnessed the traumatic overdose of one of her friends. Though her friend survived, Smith recognized that the situation could have gone otherwise.

“We did not have access to Naloxone then,” Smith said, referring to a drug that combats overdoses.  “It just wasn’t a part of our day-to-day availability.”

The Coalition, a volunteer-member organization, has both community members and qualified healthcare professionals. The organization has conducted Naloxone training for years at both the University of Maryland and other universities. Its mission is to widen the understanding of opioid addiction, as well as promote measures of harm reduction concerning addiction and overdoses.

During the seminar, Smith described what an opioid isincluding risk factors, recognizing an overdose, and a step-by-step guide on how to respond to an overdose.

“I think this is very important to know how to do,” Smith said. “If you have someone in your family or friend group like I did, you would know how to save their life.”

Knowing how to deal with this issue is becoming increasingly important in Maryland. Baltimore City has the highest demand for medication-assisted treatment, but Maryland itself has seen a rise in the crisis over the past few yearsin Prince George’s County alone opioid-related deaths have doubled since 2017. 

Naloxone trainings and other information are available at the University Health Center. Photo by VIctoria Ebner

The newest method of administering Naloxone is intranasal; the medication is sprayed up the victim’s nostril and absorbed into the nasal membrane. Administering Naloxone this way is fairly simple and allows the victim to breathe again in the event of an overdose, said Smith. Intranasal Naloxone is available to all students at the Health Center pharmacy on campus, according to the Health Center website.

“I definitely thought it was a lot more complicated to do,” said freshman Scott Barnes, who is part of the outreach program at Maryland’s School of Public Health. “It was really straightforward.”

Senior history major Mason Jean, who recently entered the healthcare field and works as a caretaker, also felt the seminar was very helpful.

“Teaching students on this topic is really good because we all come from different backgrounds and will have different experiences,” Jean said. “You never know when you’ll have to use this.”  

Intranasal Naloxone is available at the Health Center Pharmacy. Normal copay will apply with insurance.

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