Med Students Raising Awareness of Opioid Intoxication

Posted on December 14, 2023
Lance Crawford

Ben Loftis, Macy McCollister, Naden Kreitz data-lightbox='featured'
Ben Loftis, left, Macy McCollister and Naden Kreitz, all students in the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine are speaking to South students about opioid intoxication. Their presentation includes how to recognize symptoms and what steps to take if someone is suffering from opioid intoxication.

In one of Naden Kreitz’s classes last year in the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine, a guest speaker shared a story of how his son died from an opioid overdose.

“The lecture revealed to me that it was a preventable death,” said Kreitz, now a third-year student. “My fellow med students Ben Loftis and Macy McCollister were also impacted by this story, and we realized there was a need for education on how to recognize opioid intoxication and adequately respond.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, there were 82,998 opioid-involved deaths in the United States in 2022.

As an undergraduate student at South, Kreitz was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. That gave him the idea of starting an education campaign through Greek organizations. It was a logical first step. 

 “Greek members are often leaders on campus,” he said, “and it was my intention that they would take this information and share it with others to spread awareness.”

Kreitz, Loftis and McCollister contacted the presidents of South’s Greek organizations and began giving 20-minute presentations this semester. They also handed out information sheets to those in attendance.

“The students were beyond receptive to the presentation and would ask multiple questions,” Kreitz said. “Many students today probably know of a person from their hometown or in their circle of influence that has had an opioid intoxication incident, so it really was able to hit home.”

Kreitz said someone suffering from opioid intoxication can easily be mistaken as having too much to drink, so it’s important to know the differences. In their presentations, the students highlight four signs that indicate opioid intoxication and can remembered with the acronym BLUE

B: Breathing is shallow/absent 

L: Lips will turn blue/skin will be cold 

U: Unresponsive 

E: Eyes will have pinpoint pupils

“It was enlightening to learn that someone who has taken opioids may just look like they have had too much to drink,” said Carson James, Pi Kappa Phi president. “This reality is a little scary, but very helpful when determining if someone is in need of medical help.” 

The presentations also include education on naloxone, often known by its brand name Narcan, an opioid antagonist – meaning that it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of opioids. Kreitz, Loftis and McCollister give each chapter a package of Naloxone and information on how to use it.

“I’m encouraged to see college students are receptive to hearing from other peers about health issues,” he said. “It also reveals that the Whiddon College of Medicine can play a major role in health education for undergraduate students.”

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