High school to keep heroin antidote on hand in effort to save students from overdoses

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LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. -- In the middle of what experts are calling a heroin epidemic, one suburban high school is keeping a potentially-lifesaving heroin antidote right on campus.

The injection of the drug antidote can bring an overdose victim back from the brink of death.

Tom Branick, the school resource officer at Stevenson High School, carries it. He’s never used it but several times, he’s seen it work on patients who were blue and completely unresponsive.

“They inject it and within moments gets their color back, their eyes open and they regain consciousness,” Branick said.

It’s called Evzio. It treats the potentially-lethal effects of opiates like heroin with the antidote Nalaxone. And if stocking it in a high school seems like a dramatic step it, it may be. But it’s a response to a very dramatic problem. Multiple studies have shown explosive growth in heroin use in Illinois among users as young as their early teens.

They’ve never had a problem on-campus at Stevenson but it’s come incredibly close.

“We want to be sending a message about the importance of non-use of any drug, but also want to be prepared for a situation that may arise,”  said Dr. Cristina Cortesi, substance abuse prevention coordinator at Stevenson. “

At the moment, the partnership that brings the heroin antidote into Stevenson free of charge exists nowhere else in the country. Illinois, particularly Lake and Cook counties, are being credited with taking the lead, both in fighting addiction and giving addicts who overdose a second chance.