Rural Tenn. program teaches kids as young as 6 to administer Narcan

Through the program, children are taught about the dangers of opioids and given free doses of the antidote to take home


By Laura French

CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. — Health officials in a rural Tennessee county are offering programs to teach children about opioids and how to administer Narcan.

The Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition has been offering training sessions for children as young as 6 over the past three years, according to the New York Times. The county has seen nearly 60 opioid overdose deaths since 2014.

The Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition offers programs to teach children as young as 6 how to administer Narcan in case of an opioid overdose. The classes also teach children about the dangers of opioids and to call 911 in an emergency. (Photo/Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition Facebook)
The Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition offers programs to teach children as young as 6 how to administer Narcan in case of an opioid overdose. The classes also teach children about the dangers of opioids and to call 911 in an emergency. (Photo/Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition Facebook)

Children and teens are taught to “open, insert, squirt” and provided with two doses of Narcan to take home at the end of the program. Refills have been requested later by at least 100 students, according to Drug Prevention Coalition Director and Drug Prevention Educator Jilian Reece.

Reece introduces younger students to the dangers of opioids through a “murder mystery” game where the killer is revealed to be opioids. Reece recently played the game with a group of first graders at Elizabethton Public Library, where employees often find drugs in the bathrooms or hidden in books and DVD cases.

Teenagers also receive the training in after-school programs and events where they are taught about destigmatizing addiction. County officials say many of the youths who receive the training have family members struggling with opioid addiction.

Reece said this type of training has received pushback from school systems where officials say the topic is inappropriate for children. However, she argues that having a parent die from a drug overdose is more traumatizing than the training.

In addition to being taught to administer Narcan nasal spray, students are also reminded to call 911 in the event of an overdose. Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition also has a youth board where students collaborate and find ways to reach out to their peers. Youth board President Jocelyn Marr, 17, came up with the murder mystery game and helps teach the classes, sayings kids sometimes respond better to being taught by other kids.

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