Overdose numbers drive VCU Police to integrate Narcan in medical kits

Chip Lauterbach, Contributing Writer

“It feels like getting hit by a car made out of warm pillows, it just overtakes you,” said Dean Stamper of his overdose. 

Stamper, a transfer student who started at VCU this fall, has battled addiction throughout his life growing up in the mountains of northern Georgia.

After an overdose in 2016, in which his life was saved by an EMS tech with a naloxone nasal spray, Stamper moved from Georgia to Williamsburg, settling in Richmond two months ago.

With 100 overdoses in Richmond in 2017 and 13 overdoses on campus in the last year, VCU Police are continuing to train officers to administer Narcan, a nasal spray that contains the overdose reversal drug naloxone.

Naloxone works by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain, reversing the effects of an overdose.

“We preferred the nasal spray because of its ability to dispense quickly,” said Officer Ellsworth Pryor, a 14-year veteran and tactical combat care instructor.

There are no plans for naloxone to be made available in student housing, but VCU police officers will carry naloxone inside their medical kits. The department has no near-future plans to teach students or faculty how to administer naloxone.

“From Aug. 1, 2018-July 31, 2019 there were 13 reported overdose incidents in which VCU Police responded,” said police spokesperson Corey Byers in an email. “Only three of these incidents required Narcan and none were fatal.”

Student group Rams in Recovery offers naloxone training classes twice per month. The classes are open to students and faculty, and certified by the Virginia Department of Health.

“Rams in Recovery have successfully trained 500 students and faculty members how to properly use Narcan in a suspected overdose situation, just in the past year,” said Tom Bannard, program coordinator for Rams in Recovery.

In Virginia, overdose-related deaths reached an all-time high in 2017 with 1,538 fatalities due to overdoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“I had lost a few friends to overdose, and my sick mind kept thinking, ‘I would really like to try what that guy had’ because I thought if it killed him, it must be good,’” said Stamper, the VCU transfer student. 

Now clean for three years, Stamper has been slowly putting the pieces of his life back together.

“I got clean, and that was my life for the first two years. Now I have a job, and I am going to finally get my degree finished here at VCU,” the mechanical engineering major said. “When you so eagerly make a bad choice, you need to balance that with being eager for life.”

Stamper, 28, looks back on his brush with death and is grateful that he was given a second chance.

“When the Narcan hits you, and you wake up, it’s a completely miserable feeling, but no matter how awful I felt, that was the most life-affirming experience for me,” Stamper said. “I’m glad that I don’t have to live my life like that anymore.”

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