Yesterday at the Scottish Recovery Walk I spotted folk wearing Take Home Naloxone tee shirts. Recovery and harm reduction were on the march together, just as it should be. Jason Schwarz blogged last week, welcoming increasing availability of Naloxone in Michigan, but poses ‘the big question’:
What comes after the overdose rescue? Are these people [overdose victims] going to have real access to high quality treatment of adequate duration and intensity?
The Fix ran an article a while back on peer-based naloxone programmes. Although by no means universally welcomed in the USA, the initiatives are gaining ground in some areas (e.g. Michigan) and they can be very effective:
“Vernon Lewis was drinking with friends in an alley when he noticed that one of his companions had stopped breathing and was turning blue. The situation might have caused most people to panic, but Vernon calmly pulled a small vial and a syringe from his pocket, loaded the barrel, and injected a clear liquid into his friend’s thigh. Within seconds the man took a deep breath.
“What happened?” he gasped.
“You overdosed, man,” said Vernon. “I just saved your life.””
Dr Judith Craven wrote a thoughtful piece on naloxone here at Recovery Review recently with a personal and local flavour. She emphasised how programmes can empower the traditionally disempowered. Finding meaning is important for most people on the road to recovery, so being part of volunteering and supporting others can be a catalyst in building self esteem and achieving greater satisfaction with life.
There can’t be much doubt that the very event where naloxone is used – overdose – is a great opportunity for change. Training, not surprisingly, focusses on preventing death, but if in addition we integrated a strong recovery ethos, discussing how to get connected to treatment and to other recovering people through NA, CA and SMART, then perhaps we could short-circuit addiction careers. In Scotland, there are now many reports of saved lives through naloxone, can we expand its role from powerful harm reduction intervention to become effective recovery tool as well?
The Fix gives some hope:
“Some of the people I saved with naloxone went back to using drugs,” says Vernon… “But at least three or four got clean. One guy is back with his wife and family now. You never know what people will do with a second chance unless you give it to them.”
Information about naloxone training in Scotland can be found here.
[This blog is a revision of an earlier one published in April 2014]