The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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Narcan made available in nurse’s office

Elspeth LaCroix-Birdthistle
Narcan, an opioid antagonist designed to prevent overdoses, is now available in the U-High nurse’s office. “As a measure of protecting public health, we want to be prepared to treat anything that comes our way,” Laboratory Schools lead nurse Kristen Szewczyk said.

In the nurse’s office, a small white box with bright fuschia lettering rests in a clear bag on the corner of the medical supplies cabinet. But this box, no bigger than one made for bandages, reads “Narcan” and contains a medication with the potential to save lives.

As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Narcan, the nasal spray form of naloxone, is a life-saving medication which blocks or reverses the effects of opioid overdose within minutes of the crisis, and is now supplied in the three nurses offices around Lab’s campus as a backup tool in case of an urgent, drug-related emergency.

In 2015, the Illinois Department of Public Health enacted Public Act 99-0480, expanding access to naloxone and requiring entities administering the medication to be trained in opioid overdose reversal. From there, access to the medication has grown to schools and public libraries. 

According to Laboratory Schools lead nurse Kristen Szewczyk, the Public Health Department’s authorization of naloxone within schools prompted the nurse’s office to add it this year to their approach to overdose. 

“After that, we decided to stock it, just to have another tool in our emergency medication toolkit that’s already available to treat anyone that we have that is suspected of having an overdose on opioids,” Ms. Szewczyk said. “It’s already free and readily accessible to the public near us, even at Blackstone library in Hyde Park, and now it’s available on campus, too.”

Narcan can be found in the lower school, high school and early childhood nurses offices. Though Ms. Szewczyk believes use of the medication is unlikely at Lab, every nurse is trained to administer it if overdose symptoms are present, such as shallow breathing and small pupils.

“It’s another way for us nurses to be prepared. I mean, that is a big part of our job, in addition to seeing ourselves as one of the big advocates of public health,” Ms. Szewczyk said. “As a measure of protecting public health, we want to be prepared to treat anything that comes our way.”

Naloxone: What to know about the medicine

  • What is Naloxone?
    • Naloxone, an “opioid receptor antagonist,” is a life-saving medicine that is used to rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and can quickly restore breathing to someone who has overdosed on substances like fentanyl or heroin. 
  • What does it look like? 
  • Is Naloxone difficult to administer? 
    • It can be used fairly easily by people who have taken a brief time to learn how. Officials say people should always call 911 for assistance, as well as administering the medicine.
  • What if Naloxone is given to someone who isn’t actually overdosing on opioids?
  • Who gives Naloxone?
    • With more than 100,000 people in the United States dying of overdoses last year, many people have begun to administer Naloxone, in its form as a nasal spray and also as an injectable, including doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers, emergency medical workers and ordinary residents.

— compiled by Clare McRoberts

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About the Contributors
Mia Lipson, News Editor
Mia Lipson is a member of the Class of 2025 and serves as news editor. She began journalism in the 2021-22 school year as a ninth grader and previously served as an assistant editor. Her favorite story she has written is a profile on retiring P.E. teacher Terri Greene. Outside of journalism, she is an editor for the InFlame Journal of History and Economics and the Renaissance literary magazine. She enjoys running, writing and reading any history book she can find. Awards: 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Superior, editorial writing
Elspeth LaCroix-Birdthistle is a beginning photojournalist and a member of the Class of 2026. Elspeth's favorite part of photojournalism is taking photos of school events and being a part of the behind-the-scenes of the Midway and other school-related activities. Outside of school, Elspeth enjoys reading and dancing. She is also a member of the varsity girls soccer team.

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