Drug-overdose deaths among people 10–19 years old jumped 109% between 2019 and 2021 in the U.S. To save lives, the AMA supports widespread access to safe and affordable opioid overdose-reversal drugs.
“We are facing a national opioid crisis and it’s affecting our young people at an alarming rate. Just as students carry prescription inhalers to treat an asthma attack, we must destigmatize substance-use disorders and treat naloxone as a lifesaving tool,” said Bobby Mukkamala, MD, chair of the AMA Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force.
“Fortunately, an overdose tragedy can be reversed if quick action is taken with these safe and effective medications like naloxone,” Dr. Mukkamala said. “Allowing teachers and students to carry these medications is a commonsense decision and will no doubt result in young lives saved.”
Delegates extended this further by adopting policies to encourage states, communities and educational settings to:
- Adopt legislative and regulatory policies that allow safe and effective overdose-reversal medications to be readily accessible to staff and teachers to prevent opioid-overdose deaths in educational settings.
- Remove barriers to students carrying safe and effective overdose-reversal medications.
Destigmatize substance-use disorders
In other action, delegates also discussed improving access to opioid antagonists for vulnerable and underserved populations as well as decriminalizing and destigmatizing perinatal substance use treatment.
“Pregnant people in pain or struggling with substance use need comprehensive support and treatment, not judgment,” Dr. Mukkamala said. “But judgment is often what they unfairly receive from some laws and statutes that imply any indication of substance use by a pregnant individual is automatically representative of child abuse. Research has found that nonpunitive public health approaches to treatment result in better outcomes for both pregnant individuals and babies.”