Don’t say ‘no’ to Narcan: Montgomery Co. parents and students get lesson on how to prevent overdose

After five students died from opioid and fentanyl overdoses this school year, Montgomery County, Maryland Public School parents and students gathered Saturday to learn how to use lifesaving drugs – most notably, Narcan.

Though none of the overdose deaths have come on school property, Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville held the training following an incident where a student in Gaithersburg overdosed in a McDonald’s bathroom during a lunch break. In addition, the group discussed how to prevent and treat substance addiction.

“I think our kids have pressures that we didn’t have, frankly,” Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando told WTOP. “And I think, as you’re seeing across the country, a turn to these substances, and so our job is to get at those root causes and say, how do we help you deal with those emotions and those issues before you turn to substances?”

Over 100 parents and students attended several hours of training sessions related to opioid addiction and mental health at the school Saturday.

The school system partnered with Montgomery Goes Purple, a community group that works to help those dealing with substance use, prevention, treatment, and recovery. The group taught them how to provide education on healthy boundaries when it comes to dealing with addiction, how to talk with parents and how to use Narcan, a nasal spray that reverses the affects of opioids after an overdose.

“It’s important for everybody to be trained and carry Narcan because you don’t know who you’re going to encounter, where, or when … it can happen anywhere,” Laura Mitchell of Montgomery Goes Purple told WTOP.

After a 30-minute training session on how to check for an overdose and then administer Narcan, each participant aged 14 and older received two doses of the medication. Some schools also carry doses of naloxone, which counters the effect of some opioids.

“If you’re in a situation where you just found out that your child is using a substance and you haven’t gotten to a training yet, still get the Narcan,” said Mitchell, explaining that directions on the box make it easy to use.

Dr. Patricia Kapunan, medical officer for Montgomery County Public Schools, told WTOP that the school system has administered naloxone 13 times for suspected overdoses this school year.

Montgomery Goes Purple also offered training in refusal skills, or saying “no,” for students, Mitchell said.

She explained why it can be hard for some young people to refuse drugs.

“How do I keep saying no, when my friend keeps trying to get me to join them in using some substance because they have found escape? And maybe they see me struggling, too, and they think they can help me. But I don’t want to do that,” Mitchell said.

The group also discussed “tough love” approaches to addiction with parents and how it doesn’t always work as intended.

“So many experts and people who have experienced this will tell you, you have to use tough love – cut them out of your life, let them hit rock bottom and when they’re ready for treatment, then you can help them,” Mitchell said, adding that she knows how difficult the situation can be, because she has a family member that has been addicted to opioids. “But I also can’t tell you how many parents I know who lost their child that way.”

Training material, as well as information on addiction and how to obtain Narcan is available on the Montgomery Goes Purple website.

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Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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