Harm Reduction Strategies for Overdose Prevention

Harm Reduction Strategies

Many people characterize drug addicts as weak-willed, selfish, morally inferior, wastes of space who purposely choose to ruin their lives. However, science caught up to the facts a long time ago. Addiction is a progressive, chronic, and all-too-often fatal disease in which brain circuits related to decision-making and rewards are permanently altered. It is difficult to treat, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. In this article, we will highlight common harm reduction strategies to prevent fatal drug overdoses.

Harm Reduction Strategies for Overdose Prevention

Recognizing that people who suffer from substance abuse disorders are unable to stop using is a key part of any attempt to help them. It is for this reason that harm reduction has played an increasingly important role in managing addiction.

Harm reduction can be defined as any steps that are taken to reduce the risk that results from substance abuse. For example, ensuring that IV drug users have access to clean needles. The prevention of fatal overdoses is one of the most crucial aspects of harm reduction. Below, we will explore common harm reduction strategies to prevent fatal drug overdoses.

1. Knowing the Signs of a Drug Overdose

When key support persons are aware of the signs of a drug overdose, they can act more quickly to save lives. Calling emergency medical responders and administering first aid are two possibilities in this case. Know what drugs the addict in your life generally uses, as well as what combinations they turn to on occasion. Learn about the signs of an overdose, and what you can do in the immediate aftermath.

2. Carrying Narcan to Prevent Fatal Opioid Overdoses

Over 70 percent of fatal drug overdoses currently involve the use of opioids such as heroin and fentanyl. The drug Narcan (generic name naloxone) acts very quickly to reverse the effects of opioid drugs. As a result, Narcan plays a crucial role in preventing fatalities among people with opioid use disorders.

Anybody who frequently works with, or finds themselves in close contact, with opioid users can benefit from carrying Narcan. In fact, even laypeople without medical training can learn to administer in the form of nasal spray. Paramedics and other emergency responders can offer Narcan to relatives and roommates and teach them how to administer this life-saving treatment. Addicts still need to follow up with a health care provider after receiving Narcan, however.

3. Checking in with People at Risk of Overdose Frequently

Addicts with a history of overdosing, who have been observed to be on a path toward increasing their drug use, or who have shown signs of suicidal feelings, should closely be monitored. Relatives and social workers can save lives by frequently contacting the person with a substance use disorder to see how they are doing. It can also help to make a physical visit whenever they suspect that the person is particularly vulnerable. Paramedics and social workers who know that an especially “bad batch” is going around on the street can also warn the addicts in their lives.

4. Teaching Addicts Where to Turn When They Need Help

Addiction treatment only has a decent chance of being successful when an addict is fully prepared to take the steps they need to to stay in treatment. Even when that point has not been reached, you can play a role in improving their life, and reducing the risk of a fatal overdose. A great start is to point them toward the resources that they can benefit from now. That may include methadone programs, safe zones for addicts, or simply a warm meal and a caring chat.

When someone with a substance abuse disorder knows that they can feel safe at the point of care, they are also more likely to seek rehab when they are ready. In some cases, they will even feel safe to ring the alarm when they feel that they may have overdosed.

Harm reduction is not an “easy way out.” However, it is a strategy that saves lives every single day. By learning what you can do to help people struggling with addiction, you, too, can prevent someone from having a fatal outcome.

Additional Reading: Overdose deaths spike in Omaha and Lincoln as fentanyl is found mixed into other drugs

Blue Sky Counseling Omaha

I, Carly Spring, M.S., LIMHP, LADC, CPC, offer my specialized expertise to assist in the healing process to anyone who may be experiencing and suffering from a vast spectrum of mental health issues. Such mental health issues include behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, addiction issues, and life transitions. I believe strongly in applying a holistic perspective addressing your whole person not just the bits and pieces of you. Contact us with any questions or to discuss gambling addiction services in Omaha today.