Student leaders at York University are preparing for frosh week not only by planning movie nights and scavenger hunts to help welcome students and foster new friendships, but also by receiving training in how to administer naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote.

“We need to be prepared in case the prevalence of drugs increases on campus,” Claudia Martire, a frosh director at York University’s Bethune College who also works with the Canadian International Medical Relief Organization, told CTV News Channel.

Martire says frosh week organizers need to be trained in more than just first-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Even though York University’s frosh week is a “dry” event, making shot-downing and beer-guzzling (technically) prohibited, she added that the group is erring on the safe side and adding the naloxone training as a precautionary measure.

“I think that it shouldn’t be just in the hands of medical experts,” Martire said. “At the end of the day, they’re not there with you and your friend who is lying unconscious at a party because of an overdose. This could potentially save a life one day.”

Last year, organizers of the University of Ottawa’s frosh week events were prohibited from administering naloxone because of liability concerns if the injections were to go wrong.

York University’s move comes after a warning from Health Canada last week about the lack of awareness students may have about the dangers of opioids and their potential unfamiliarity with the telltale signs of an opioid overdose.

“You may already be aware of the risks related to drinking alcohol,” the notice reads. “However, you may not have heard as much about the risks associated with the use of opioids.”

According to the latest data from Health Canada, nearly 4,000 Canadians died of an opioid-related overdose in 2017, with 72 per cent of accidental opioid-related deaths involving fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine – up 31 per cent from 2016.

The government agency recommends that students carry opioid overdose cards in their wallets, which detail the signs of an opioid overdose and provide instructions on what to do if encountering a person suffering from one.