Reflections on International Overdose Awareness Day: Wez Steele

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So the country is in the grip of public health crisis, people are dying from overdoses at an alarming rate, alarming even to the more advanced drug using population which is fairly accustomed to hearing someone else they knew has been found dead. There has been much talk of how we can stem the tide of these unfortunate losses, and it begs the question “what can I do?”

I am fortunate enough to work in a very tolerant service, as part of a very tolerant team enabling us to “look out for” people who are heavily under the influence of numerous substances, we can provide a safe space to simply observe them and ensure they are stable and breathing, we can administer first aid and naloxone should this be necessary. We can “buddy” people back to where they are staying and hand over concerns to support staff there for observations to continue. This is all excellent and could well have prevented a death or two in the last few months alone. But what we are unable to do, often to our great frustration, is distribute naloxone to our service users because we are not a formal drug service. Many of our service users are not engaged anywhere else, and are often homeless IV drug users with long term health issues, making them some of the most at risk of the kind of deaths we are all tasked with preventing.

So, what can I do? I can continue to observe, buddy and administer naloxone to service users, but often watch as they stumble away from the service with a mate or two knowing none of them has a kit, and hoping beyond hope that they won’t need one!

Wez Steele, Peer Navigator.

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