Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Wisconsin–Madison now have greater access to naloxone on campus. Naloxone is a lifesaving medicine that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose.
UW–Madison is a participant in Wisconsin Voices for Recovery‘s Nalox-ZONE Program, which provides free access to naloxone. Last fall, UW–Madison installed Nalox-ZONE boxes in University Housing that provided free access to NARCAN®, a brand of naloxone nasal spray. This August, due to campus-wide interest, UW–Madison installed 13 additional boxes, for a total of 25 locations on campus, so the entire UW–Madison community has access to this lifesaving measure.
“We are deeply concerned about the national increase in fentanyl-laced drugs,” says Jake Baggott, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and executive director of University Health Services (UHS). “The expanded availability of naloxone at UW–Madison will help us ensure a safer campus community where all students can thrive.”
The installation of additional naloxone boxes coincides with National Overdose Awareness Day on August 31. In recent years, deaths related to opioid misuse have grown significantly in Wisconsin and across the United States.
Most of these deaths are related to fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid. Many overdoses occur in people who do not realize they have taken fentanyl, since it is often found mixed with other drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, and in fake Percocet and Xanax pills. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services estimates that as many as 40 percent of counterfeit pills contain enough fentanyl to be lethal.
“Overdose deaths are the leading cause of preventable death among 18 to 45 year olds,” shares Jenny Damask, assistant director of high-risk drinking prevention at UHS. “Because most overdoses are witnessed, naloxone boxes equip bystanders with the tools to reverse an overdose and potentially save a life.”
The boxes contain NARCAN® nasal spray, a breathing mask, and instructions on how to administer NARCAN®, which will allow a bystander to respond quickly to the signs of an opioid overdose while emergency responders are on their way. If a bystander witnesses a person experiencing an overdose, they should call 911 and administer naloxone immediately.
UW–Madison’s policy on Amnesty Through Responsible Action ensures that neither a student experiencing an overdose nor the friend who calls on their behalf receives disciplinary actions, sanctions, or citations.
Naloxone boxes located in University Residence Halls are available to UW–Madison students with keycard access. Boxes located in other campus buildings are accessible during open hours. If someone is concerned about their own or another’s substance use, they may choose to take the naloxone from the box and carry it on them in case of emergency.
Since their initial installation in University Housing in fall 2022, naloxone boxes have been accessed 28 times.
Among the new naloxone boxes available on campus are those in the Wisconsin Union’s Union South and Memorial Union. “The Wisconsin Union acts as a community center, bringing together students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests,” says Mark Guthier, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and executive director of the Wisconsin Union. “Making naloxone available in our buildings helps us care for our community and visitors.”
Providing access to naloxone on campus is part of UW–Madison’s strategy of supporting students experiencing drug and alcohol misuse. In addition to university programs supporting a safer campus community, UHS provides medical and mental health care services, as well as recovery support through Badger Recovery, UW–Madison’s collegiate recovery community.
For more information on naloxone on campus, including a list of frequently asked questions, visit UW’s Naloxone webpage.