BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota Department of Health says there were 68 overdose deaths last year, more than a 400 percent increase over two years.
The situation has become serious that schools are taking steps to deal with the problem.
An opioid antidote will soon be in the hands of school administrators in the Bismarck Mandan area, but doctors worry that having the remedy handy could worsen the problem.
This is just one of the many versions of Narcan that can treat an overdose.
“It can be given sublingually, it can be given intra-nasally. it can be given intra muscularly. It can be given IV,” said Dr. Kevin Mickelson, staff emergency physician at CHI St. Alexius.
Dr. Mickelson says that the Narcan nasal spray is very easy to use. You just peel the package open but you only get one chance because there is only one nasal spray per unit.
But are overdoses common in the Bismarck-Mandan area?
“We do. We see several a week,” said Mickelson.
And those are just the people who come into the hospital. Dr. Mickelson says it's not rare to see a 17-year-old overdose.
This is why secondary schools are stocking up on Narcan nasal spray.
“In case we have a student who needs it, or we always say school sites are places where thousands of people come for an event, for an activity throughout the course of a day and so we just want to be at the ready should someone need the Narcan response,” said Bismarck Public School Superintendent Tamara Uselman.
Bismarck Public Schools will first train their principals. Mandan plans to train school administrators.
“We always worry about enabling behavior in things like this but I think when people are dying, when an antidote is at hand, it's proper and medically appropriate to get this into the hands of the people who are going to discover these individuals first,” said Mickelson.
The superintendents of both districts say there hasn't been an overdose incident in their schools.
Adapt Pharma is the distributor providing Narcan nasal spray and training for free.
Every middle and high school is eligible for one box, each including two doses.
The retail price is $75.