People who consume drugs saving lives: Project findings

What is an opioid overdose? How do people manage and respond to them? What is take-home naloxone? What is it like to respond to overdoses with and without naloxone? A ground breaking new website sheds light on the stories of people affected by overdose and explores the different ways people who consume drugs manage overdose.

Launched at the 2019 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (APSAD) conference in Hobart on Tuesday 11 November, is Australia’s first dedicated website presenting carefully researched personal stories of opioid overdose and the use of take-home naloxone to save lives. Developed from an ARC-funded project, the site as two key aims. First, it aims to support people affected by opioid overdose and thinking about using take-home naloxone. Second, it aims to inform the public about overdose and what can be done about it. Overall it seeks to look beyond the statistics and recognise that behind each death from overdose was a human life that had its own story and remains connected to the lives and stories of others. website patron, SBS broadcaster, human rights advocate and former Socceroo, Craig Foster also presents his perspective on the site in his introduction, saying,

At present we’re facing unprecedentedly high rates of fatal overdose among people who consume opioids. These deaths cut short valuable lives and leave behind devastated families and friends, from the loss.

Advisory panel member Jane Dicka (Harm Reduction Victoria)
reflects on the personal stories informing

Drawing on in-depth qualitative interviews, the website presents detailed accounts of opioid overdose and saving lives with take-home naloxone. Also presented are key themes found in the research interviews conducted for the project behind the site:

  • Experiences of overdose and strategies to avoid it;
  • Helping family and friends;
  • Coping with stigma and discrimination;
  • Health professionals’ reflections on take-home naloxone;

And much more. These themes are presented using video re-enactmentsoriginal audio recordings and written extracts from the interviews. Planned and designed with the help of a national advisory panel, aims to aims to fill in the many gaps in public discussion of overdose, to counter stigmatising misconceptions, and to promote understanding and more effective community responses.

Lead investigator Suzanne Fraser explained that one of the key aims of, and the team’s research on take-home naloxone more generally, was to highlight the life-saving actions of the participants:

Most members of the community don’t realise that some people who consume drugs routinely save lives without expecting recognition or accolades. We hope goes some way to highlighting these brave actions, and also makes people feel more comfortable with getting naloxone and using it should they have to.