Managing the aftermath of an overdose can be a complicated and emotional experience. We’re including some information from Harm Reduction Coalition’s Opioid Overdose Aftercare training that we hope you find helpful. If you have experiences to add to this list, want to ask a question, or need support, please contact us. We’re interested in building out this resource, if you work in harm reduction and have information we could add, please let us know.

Advice for opioid overdose responders

  • Let the person know what happened, tell them they overdosed and that you used naloxone to reverse their overdose.

  • Ask how the person is feeling, ask if they’re okay.

  • Don’t restrain them if they try to leave.

  • Provide non-judgemental support.

  • Provide one-on-one help, avoid a crowd of people.

  • Everyone is different, ask them what they need. Do they want a cold glass of water? To sit and talk? To take a walk?

People who have experienced an overdose reported the most comforting responses they received after the reversal was…

  • “You scared me, I love you, I’m glad you’re alive.”

  • Hug from a close friend

  • Being given space

  • “Are you okay?”

  • “Don’t worry, I didn’t call the cops.”

People who have experienced an overdose reported the least comforting responses they received after the reversal was…

  • “I was so thirsty and hungry and they wouldn’t let me eat or drink anything.”

  • Cops came and no one told the person who overdosed that 911 had been called

  • Being interrogated “Where are the syringes? Where is the dope? Don’t lie to me!”

  • Being forced to go to the hospital

  • Being forced to call family

Working with first responders (EMS, Fire Department, Police)

  • When EMS arrives, tell them what you did so far and ask them if they need anything else

  • Don’t give more information than is necessary

    • If a first responder asks what the person took, you do not need to disclose the individual’s drug use. You can respond “I’m not sure. I was trained to use naloxone and I used it because the person was not breathing.”

  • Step aside

Other harm reduction techniques

  • Treat the person with dignity

  • Ask the person what they want before assuming what they need

  • Be practical and realistic

  • Recognize people make decisions based on their own circumstances