California Fights Opioid Addiction Across State Community Colleges and Universities


Photo by: Ricardo A. Reyna

Prescription drugs like promethazine with codeine (left) and pills like Tramadol (right) and Xanax have become increasingly popular among young people.

As opioid addiction and overdoses climb, ​​​​Naloxone Distribution Project and SB 367 combat to reduce the issue throughout California community colleges and California State Universities.

The NDP aims to address the opioid crisis by reducing overdose deaths by providing free naloxone, while Sb 367 approved August 29, requires health centers on campuses to carry the medication.

Naloxone, known as Narcan, is FDA approved and works by blocking the effects of opioids. It’s available in an easy to administer nasal spray, Dr. John Zweifler, medical consultant, Fresno County Department of Public Health said.

“You just put a spray in a nostril and if it is an opioid overdose, it will help them wake up within a minute or two,” Zweifler said. “If it doesn’t work the first time, you could do a second dose in the other nostril.”

California Overdose Surveillance Dashboard shows over 14.7 million opioid prescriptions were prescribed in 2021. In the same year 6,843 deaths from any opioid overdose with 5,722 deaths related to fentanyl. Over 20,000 emergency department visits were from drug related overdoses. 

Fentanyl, one of the many opioids, a powerful synthetic opioid medication used to treat severe pain is becoming more common among those with addiction, and the cause of many overdoses.

Micheal Prichard, staff analyst for Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health said fentanyl is easier to get because it’s made in a lab versus heroin that is made from a poppy.

It’s becoming an increasing threat because it’s more potent than heroin, Prichard said.

“The problem with Fentanyl is that because it is so potent, any dose can potentially be lethal if the proportion of fentanyl to other additives is not correct, and so every time you’re using fentanyl, you’re playing a little bit of Russian roulette,” Zweifler said.  

Taylor Long, public information officer with the Fresno County District Attorney Office said, based on statistics released by the coroner’s office, there has been a significant increase in fentanyl related deaths in the last few years in comparison to past years. 

There were seven fentanyl related deaths in 2019, with a jump to over 70 deaths in 2021, and 25 so far for 2022, according to Long. 

Toxicology reports could still be coming from 2021 and 2022, Prichard said. 

Zweifler said during the pandemic opioid overdose related deaths have drastically increased by 15 to 20% each year.

“So yeah, pretty dramatic increase in overdoses during the pandemic,” Zweifler said. 

Joseph Lopez, Fresno City College undecided major, believes college campuses should have Naloxone available to students. 

“I think it (Naloxone) should have been added to college campuses a long time ago due to college students becoming more aware and experimental without the background knowledge of anything,” Lopez said.

Addiction doesn’t have an age preference, and affects people as young as teenagers to over the age of 70.

According to Long, most addiction starts during the adolescence years. 

“Trying to quit cold turkey rarely works. Almost zero success rate,” Prichard said.” Access to those resources are not difficult.

Naloxone can be picked from a physician, pharmacy or the following locations in Fresno.

Community Regional Medical Center Emergency Department with no fee or cost, Fresno County Department of Public Health, Fresno/San Joaquin Needle Exchange by prescription only, and Parents & Addicts in Need (PAIN).