Naloxone is a drug that’s used to counteract overdoses from opioids, which include some prescription painkillers as well as heroin and fentanyl. The federal government made naloxone nasal spray available over the counter this year, and that availability is helping naloxone become a life-saving measure in shelters, jails and schools. 

“We know that we are equipped to help people, and that's what it's all about,” said Zabrina Cannady, the Houston County School District assistant superintendent for student services.

Through a partnership with the Department of Public Health, Houston County schools have naloxone stocked in all of its high schools and middle schools. Administration also hosts public training sessions. 

Drug surveillance specialist from Macon, Marissa Cody, is used to showing people how to administer Narcan, a name-brand version of naloxone. It’s part of her job with the Department of Public Health that primarily has her monitoring drug overdoses in a 13-county area. 

“You want to tilt their head back and get right into a nostril where you can feel the bottom of their nose, touching the tops of your fingers,” Cody explains at a training the week after school let out for the holidays. “If we can get to the Narcan before we get to the phone, we're getting to the Narcan before we call 911.”

Each box of Narcan holds two doses of nasal spray. One box costs around $40, more than many people might be willing to pay. That’s why at trainings like this the Department of Public Health gives it out for free.

“It's super user-friendly, and we're able to feel empowered to use it,” Cody said. 

Cody explains what to look out for: Has someone used drugs and fallen unconscious? Are they breathing heavily, and making snoring sounds? Are their fingers turning blue? That likely means an overdose. 

She shares other tips too: Narcan has a 3-year-long shelf life now, so check expiration dates. If one dose doesn’t work, administer another one in the second nostril. 

It’s information that’s important to neighbors like Kenneth Arnett. 

I see these people wandering around, and a lot of times and you really wonder what you would do if somebody just dropped out or something,” Arnett said. “The more people you can save, maybe you give them another chance.” 

Arnett leaves the training with two boxes of Narcan. 

Houston County, and those around it, has seen a spike in overdose-related deaths this year due to fentanyl contamination in the drug supply. It only takes a small amount of fentanyl, about a fifth the size of a quarter, to cause an overdose. 

Just over 2,600 people died from a drug-related overdose in Georgia last year. Nationwide, it was over 100,000. 

“It's more people than we can fit inside of Sanford Stadium,” Cody said.

The Department of Public Health hopes trainings like this can help cut down on fatalities. People across Georgia can request free naloxone kits and training through the Georgia Overdose Prevention program.