Overdose Prevention Training
The Drug Policy Alliance recommends a number of strategies to prevent accidental overdose, including increased use of naloxone, Good Samaritan immunity laws, decriminalization of drugs, patient education, improved data gathering, analysis and dissemination and supervised injection facilities.
Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of many illegal drugs such as heroin and prescription painkillers. Death from drug overdose is commonly the result of respiratory depression; the sedative effect of the drugs decreases the rate and quality of breathing and the person dies from respiratory arrest. Naloxone blocks the brain receptors used by opioid drugs and can reverse breathing impairment within 2 to 3 minutes. The Drug Policy Alliance recommends naloxone be made readily available to the public and that friends and family members of a drug addict be taught to give the drug in case of accidental overdose.
Good Samaritan immunity laws would help to decrease the reluctance to call 911 when a drug overdose occurs; many people are reluctant to make the call because they fear involvement with law enforcement. The Drug Policy Alliance believes that addiction is a medical disease and that people should not be criminalized because of their disease. Decriminalizing drug addiction would allow drugs such as heroin to be tested for purity and quality and assure that an addict would not be in danger from self-medication while treatment for substance abuse is implemented.
Supervised heroin injection facilities, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, assure addicts a safe place to inject and offer an opportunity to provide addicts with counseling, health education and referrals for medical care. Supervised injection facilities would also decrease the incidence of secondary diseases, such as HIV or hepatitis, that result from sharing contaminated needles and injection equipment.
The Drug Policy Alliance feels patients who use opioid drugs need education about the risks of individual drugs, the dangers of combining drugs that have similar effects and the strategies to prevent accidental overdose. Data related to accidental overdose is not shared or pooled by most municipal or health-care organizations. If data were collected, analyzed and reported, it would allow identification of trends to help educate the public, law enforcement and the health-care professions and develop other strategies to prevent accidental drug overdose.