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Campus Security takes action against opioid epidemic

Belmont Campus Security patrol cars now carry a potent drug to reverse the effect of an opioid overdose in response to nationwide trends of high opioid abuse.

The issue has become so prevalent among college-aged students that opioid awareness is now a formal part of Belmont officer certification, and Naloxone — which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose — is now included in officers’ medical response kits, said Chief of Campus Security Pat Cunningham.

If Belmont students fit the national statistics, about four students in every class of 27 are likely to misuse opioids and are also likely to have medical complications, become fatally ill, face addiction, move into ‘harder drugs’ like heroin and die from an overdose as a result, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

While these statistics aren’t surprising to Belmont professor and licensed practicing nurse Dr. Ken Corbit, who has had previous experience in an opioid treatment clinic, he said the lack of awareness college-aged students have about opioids is alarming.

Corbit has seen firsthand the effects of opioid addiction in college students.

“Opioid use is a progressive thing, where the person is always chasing the high by escalating to more extreme measures, such as inserting the drug directly into the bloodstream,” Corbit said. “You’d be astonished by all the college students who misused opioids who came into the clinic and discovered they had Hepatitis C or HIV and had no idea.”

So, what can Belmont students do to help combat what President Donald Trump describes as a state of national emergency?

“The biggest thing for students to do is to be aware of the issue and know the resources available to them, because we want you to be empowered to come forward and get help,” Cunningham said. “The most dangerous thing to do is taking something that is a low-level substance, like prescription drugs, and having the problem escalate into harder substances like heroin.”

“Addressing this problem early on is the best thing to do,” he said.

Campus Security has also joined with the Student Concern System, which serves as a multi-disciplinary team to get support and resources to students when health or safety concerns — such as substance abuse — are identified.

“Campus Security,” as Cunningham said, “is an ally in your safety.” To bring awareness to the issue, Belmont is launching a convocation series on substance abuse to inform students on opioid and prescription drug misuse and addiction prevention. The series will also help students identify ways to help others who may be struggling with substance abuse.

The next session will be held Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. in JAAC 1037.

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This story written by Carolyn Connolly

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