At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, three students stand behind a card table covered in naloxone injection kits. When a curious student leans in and asks what the kits are for, Caroline Clodfelter, one of the co-founders of the student group running the table, explains: “It will reverse an opioid overdose. … So let’s say you’re going out to a frat — stick it in your pocket. It’s easy to just have on you.”
Nearly 600 miles away, at the State University of New York’s Delhi campus, Rebecca Harrington, who works in student affairs, has also been tabling to prevent fentanyl overdoses. Her table, though, is full of colorful cups, a water jug and candies in zip-close bags — tools for her demonstration on how to use a fentanyl test strip. These test strips allow students to see whether a pill has been laced with the deadly synthetic opioid.
Test strips and naloxone are becoming more and more common on college campuses, and at least one health department has recommended they be added to school packing lists. For students who didn’t bring their own, many campuses are handing them out at welcome fairs, orientation events or campus health centers.
As more teens overdose on fentanyl, schools face a drug crisis unlike any other
Fentanyl was involved in the vast majority of teen overdose deaths in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly a quarter of those deaths involved counterfeit pills that weren’t prescribed by a doctor. And the problem has been following teens onto college campuses.
Students may think they’re taking pills like oxycodone, Xanax or Vicodin. Instead, those pills often have fentanyl in them, resulting in overdoses on campuses across the U.S., from Ohio to Colorado to Oregon. At UNC-Chapel Hill, three students died from fentanyl poisoning in just the last two years.