An OD Revival Story

What to do if your friend turns blue? Try Narcan.

Tom Smith teaches this class, which includes lessons on how to recognize an overdose, how to provide "rescue breathing," and the necessity of always calling 911. The class ends with a doctor handing out prescriptions and the staff distributing syringes filled with Narcan. "It only lasts about 30 to 40 minutes," Smith says. "It's mostly to keep someone alive while EMS is coming."

Governor George Pataki gave an unintentional boost to programs like this one when he signed a bill on August 2 about "opioid overdose prevention." The legislation authorizes the state health commissioner to establish standards for overdose prevention programs, and it authorizes the injection of Narcan by "nonprofessionals" in the case of an overdose.

The city health department in San Francisco started giving Narcan to addicts in 2003 despite criticism that this would encourage heroin use. In New Mexico, state health workers have dispensed Narcan. It is also available in Chicago and Baltimore. In New York City, anyone—an addict, a friend of an addict, a family member—can obtain Narcan through a local syringe exchange.

The Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center dispenses syringes of Narcan to addicts and their friends.
photo: Willie Davis/Veras
The Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center dispenses syringes of Narcan to addicts and their friends.


To find a program near you, contact the Harm Reduction Coalition at 212-213-6376.

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