App State Wellness and Prevention offers free naloxone, fentanyl test kits


Andrew Rice, Reporter

Wellness and Prevention services at App State have begun offering free fentanyl test strip kits and naloxone to students who anonymously request the service through their website or request them in office, according to Anna Oakes, News and Media Relations Director at the university.

According to a 2020 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General, about 9.9 million Americans misused prescription opioids resulting in nearly 47,000 deaths in 2018. In 2017, Appalachian counties had a 72% higher opioid overdose death rate than non-Appalachian counties throughout the country, according to the same report. 

Sophomore student Anna Gretz, found out by word-of-mouth from other students on Snapchat and decided to share with her followers through her Instagram account. 

“I’m super glad that the community is that strong but it would have been nice if it had really publicized that and made it a bigger thing,” said Gretz, a women and gender studies and social work double major.

Mackenzie Law, a senior psychology major, discovered the news about the fentanyl test strip kits through Instagram. Law said she believes this is a good step in the right direction for the university. 

Gretz said she hopes the new move by the university will make recreational drugs much safer in Boone.

 “We all know drug use is something that is never going to stop,” Gretz said. “I think focusing on harm reduction and making it as safe as possible and as clean as possible is the best thing that we can do, especially as a college campus in Appalachia.”

These resources from the university come at a time when 1 in 5 college students aged 18 to 22 say they have used an illicit drug in the past month, according to a 2016 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

“It’s better to have safe precautions set in place instead of letting more people get hurt without having anything to save them,” Law said.

As well as handing out free fentanyl test strips, AppHealthCare has begun offering naloxone nasal spray to students free of charge if they leave an anonymous request on their website, according to AppHealthCare.

“Just like universities have advocated for wearing masks during COVID, getting tested, less drinking and safe driving, I think that the same amount of responsibility falls on universities in terms of drug use,” Gretz said.

Moving forward, Gretz said she hopes the university will reach out to students and educate them on drug use habits which she says will help destigmatize safe drug use. Before test strips and naloxone, wellness and prevention offer many different options to address substance use or abuse issues in the student body.

“The department offers a variety of individual and group services for students, including individual therapy, alcohol and drug counseling, recovery support group meetings, ally training and a resource library,” Oakes wrote.

Gretz believes classes on how to administer or use naloxone, fentanyl test kits and about Good Samaritan Laws could help immensely. 

North Carolina’s Good Samaritan Laws allow for those experiencing or witnessing drug overdose to seek help from first responders without being prosecuted for possession of small amounts of drugs or underage drinking. 

“I think what causes deaths, especially for lots of students, is the fear of getting in trouble for getting someone help and the person ends up dying because they spent too much time thinking about it,” Gretz said.

In order to address this, wellness and prevention services in partnership with Olive Branch Ministries will be holding a Narcan Training information session Thursday at 5 p.m. in Belk Library in room 114, according to Engage. The training session will educate those in attendance about local laws, resources, and how to use naloxone. 

The university’s new initiative echoes what many other places in the High Country have already done. In recognition of International Overdose Awareness day Aug. 31, businesses such as Lily’s Snack Bar, F.A.R.M. cafe, Hatchet Coffee, Boone Mall and Regear Outdoors offered free naloxone and fentanyl test strips, according to a Facebook post.

Moving forward, both Gretz and Law said they wish to see the university broadcasting and educating the news of their resources through the help they provide to students more often, according to both.

“There could be people that don’t know about it because they haven’t seen it yet and something could happen to them simply because they do not know,” Law said.