The University of Wisconsin-Madison is partnering with Wisconsin Voices for Recovery through the Nalox-ZONE Program to provide free access to Nalox-ZONE boxes for students living in University Housing. The boxes contain nasal spray naloxone – a lifesaving measure that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. The boxes, which also contain a breathing mask and instructions on how to administer naloxone, will allow someone to respond quickly to the signs of an opioid overdose while emergency responders are on their way.
“The Nalox-ZONE Program supports both safety and harm reduction efforts to save lives and prevent fatalities as a result of opioid overdose,” says Cindy Burzinski, Director of Wisconsin Voices for Recovery. “We are very aware of the rise in opioid-related deaths and work across the state to improve access to free naloxone by distributing as many boxes as possible.”
In recent years, deaths related to opioid misuse have increased significantly in the United States. In particular, there has been a sharp spike in overdose deaths attributed to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl-lacing has become a serious concern for people who use controlled substances or use drugs without a prescription. Fentanyl has been found mixed in with drugs including cannabis, cocaine, Percocet, and Xanax.
“The rapid increase in fentanyl-laced drugs is very concerning,” notes Jenny Damask, Assistant Director of High-Risk Drinking Prevention. “People may associate opioid overdose with products like OxyContin, Vicodin, and methadone, but we’re now seeing national trends of overdose associated with the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Drugs purchased without a prescription or through an anonymous source could contain a lethal amount of fentanyl.”
University Health Services is working closely with University Housing to educate students on the risk of fentanyl-laced drugs, as well as how to recognize the signs of opioid overdose and use naloxone. UW-Madison students who have access to University Housing are able to access Nalox-ZONE boxes 24/7. Nalox-ZONE boxes located in dining halls are accessible to anyone during open hours.
When a Nalox-ZONE box is opened, a notification is sent to Wisconsin Voices for Recovery to let them know that the box needs to be refilled. There are no additional signals or notifications that the kit has been opened. 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. “The installation of Nalox-ZONE boxes in University Housing is a step towards a safer campus community,” says Sarah Oleksy, Director of Residence Life. “We intentionally situated Nalox-ZONE boxes near other residential safety features – like AEDs and fire extinguishers. We want students to know where to look in the event of an emergency.”
If a student suspects a friend or peer is experiencing an opioid overdose, they should call 911 and administer naloxone immediately. There is minimal harm associated with using naloxone on someone who is not experiencing an opioid overdose. It is important that students stay with an individual experiencing signs of an overdose until emergency responders arrive. UW-Madison’s policy on Amnesty Through Responsible Action ensures that neither the student experiencing an overdose nor the friend who called on behalf of someone else receives disciplinary actions, sanctions, or citations.
For more information, visit the Frequently Asked Questions – Nalox-ZONE Boxes webpage. If you are concerned about a student’s drug use, University Health Services can help. You can call 608-265-5600 to share a concern, or can encourage the student in your life to set up an Access Appointment to get connected to care. Students in recovery or interested in learning more about recovery from substance use can find support through Badger Recovery – UW-Madison’s collegiate recovery community.
“Everyone plays a role in making UW-Madison a community where students can thrive,” says Jenny Damask. “Integrating this life saving measure into student spaces demonstrates our commitment to creating a culture of care.”