In the campus area, access to the opioid overdose-reversal drug, naloxone, has increased with the passing of House Bill 4, but Ohio State is lagging behind in the effort to make available the life-saving drug.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults ages 18-25 years old are at the highest risk for heroin addiction. Between 2011 and 2013, heroin use was seen in 7.3 people per 1,000 people, a 109 percent increase from their measure in 2002-2004, which listed 3.5 people per 1,000 people having used heroin.
The bill, which passed last summer, “takes further strides in curtailing Ohio’s opioid epidemic,” according to a House release.
“This legislation will save lives in the State of Ohio, and make this life-saving medication more widely available,” Ohio Rep. Robert Sprague, a primary sponsor of the bill, said in the release.
Pharmacies across the state have already started selling the drug without a prescription, but the Office of Student Life Student Health Services have not yet established the protocols for availability.
“Each pharmacy must create their own protocol for dispensing the medication, and Student Life Student Health Services will develop it as part of an overall medication treatment program for individuals with a diagnosis of substance abuse disorder,” said Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the Office of Student Life, in an emailed statement.
Walgreens and CVS announced in respective press releases in February that both chains had made the drug available over the counter in Ohio.
Ken Hale, associate director of the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery, said the misuse of prescription opioids, like the painkillers Vicodin and Oxycodone, are directly linked to heroin use. The CDC says that addiction to opioid painkillers makes someone 40 times more likely to use heroin.
“We know that the heroin epidemic we have in the U.S. is growing. House Bill 4 is a great step,” Hale said.
Hale said he hopes to see the university establish a protocol for dispensing the drug without a prescription within a year. For now, if students want to get the drug because they or someone they know has an opioid substance-abuse problem, they can make an appointment at the student health center to get a prescription or go to one of the pharmacies located off campus.
“We have created the perfect storm,” Hale said. “Drugs are part of our culture, we have easy access to medications, and we have lots of misconceptions about using these drugs.”
In an effort to reduce opioid-related deaths and addiction, the CDC’s website offers information about opioids.
The student pharmacy at OSU is having a drug takeback day in April in an effort to get dangerous drugs out of the supply chain, Hale said. Students are encouraged to bring their unfinished prescriptions so that they can be properly disposed.