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Elizabeth Hartney, PhD

Study Empowers Drug Users to Save Lives

By November 25, 2012

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I'd like to share the findings of a study that recognizes the key role of co-users in preventing deaths by opiate overdose.

Yale University researchers have shown that community-based training in the identification of overdose and administration of the opioid antagonist drug, naloxone, could potentially keep people alive long enough for medical professionals to arrive.

I am delighted that harm reduction innovations are gaining acceptance, and that drug users themselves are being seen as capable of taking responsiblity for the safety of their peers. While critics of such a harm-reduction strategy might question whether drug users have the ability to recognize an overdose and can properly administer the drug, this study suggests otherwise, with trained drug user's judgements shown to be on a par with those of medical experts.

Implementing an approach such as training for drug users in responding to overdoses not only has the potential to save the lives of users who accidentally overdose, but also to reduce the trauma experienced by users who are unable to prevent the death of a friend, through lack of knowledge and access to resouces. Considering the challenges of living with heroin addiction, the more we can empower drug users to take responsibility for their own and others' safety, the better.

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