Naloxone kits are available on campuses in New Brunswick, Camden and Newark
Rutgers University is providing free Narcan kits supplied by the New Jersey Department of Human Services on its New Brunswick, Camden and Newark campuses as a preventive measure to enhance the safety and well-being of community members.
Rutgers officials said the proactive initiative ensures faculty, staff and students are equipped to respond effectively to opioid overdoses and potentially save lives in their communities. Naloxone is a rapid-reversal medication for opioid overdoses commonly known as Narcan. The state government has provided the nasal spray free of charge to Rutgers and other universities.
“The impact of the nationwide opioid epidemic, coupled with the state’s free availability of this medication and our commitment to helping others, led us to seize this opportunity,” said Noa’a Shimoni, the associate vice president for student health and wellness at Rutgers. “This measure empowers community members to help prevent overdoses, which can happen anywhere. Now, our students can be better prepared to help if needed in our New Jersey communities.”
Shimoni, who is leading the initiative in collaboration with the Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program, Health Outreach, Promotion and Education, and the Rutgers Health Service Corps, said the choice to provide free Narcan on campus aligns with Rutgers' role as a prominent research university dedicated to transforming lives, enhancing communities, and advancing society through knowledge.
"Rutgers is known for its forward-looking approach to public health and is dedicated to proactive measures that contribute to the well-being of our community," she added.
Naloxone is designed to rapidly reverse the effects of a life-threatening opioid emergency. It is a safe and effective treatment used to reverse an overdose from opioids – including heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioid medications – when given in time. The Food and Drug Administration in March approved over-the-counter use and distribution for this life-saving medicine.
"Opioid abuse is an escalating public health crisis, and overdoses are the leading cause of injury death in the state," said Shimoni, who also is the associate vice chancellor for student affairs, student health and wellness at Rutgers–New Brunswick. "Much like the fire extinguishers we see in buildings, being equipped does not mean there will be an emergency. It simply means that you can’t help if you’re not prepared."
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, laboratory testing in 2023 of counterfeit pills seized by the government showed that many that look like Adderall or Xanax pills contain fentanyl. Of those seized, seven of 10 pills contained a deadly dose. This is an increase from four of 10 pills in 2021 and six of 10 pills in 2022.
"If someone makes a mistake or unintentionally ingests a counterfeit pill laced with fentanyl, it can lead to a fatal outcome," said Shimoni. "With the opioid epidemic and the prevalence of counterfeit pills on the streets, it makes sense to add this tool to our preventive measures.”
The nasal spray has no harmful effects if there wasn’t an overdose, works immediately and is accessible for use by anyone, she said.
“Having naloxone on campus and within our community is about giving people a second chance at life,” said Keith Murphy, director of the Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program at Rutgers.
Narcan is available in Rutgers-New Brunswick, Newark and Camden at specified locations. The goal is to make Narcan available so anyone can respond promptly and bridge the gap until professional help arrives.
The medication is housed in boxes with QR codes linking to instructional videos on how to administer the treatment. The university encourages students, faculty and staff to pick up a Narcan kit, carry them in purses or backpacks and be prepared to respond to emergencies.
The initiative adds to other state measures, including Gov. Phil Murphy's announcement that individuals ages 14 and older can freely request and obtain naloxone from participating pharmacies without the need to provide a name or reason. Additionally, a naloxone distribution program was launched in 2022.
For more information, resources, and Narcan distribution locations on campus, visit go.rutgers.edu/narcan.