Overdose Education

What is an overdose?
Overdose (OD) happens when a drug overwhelms the body. Opioid overdoses happen when there are so many opioids or a combination of opioids and other drugs in the body that the person is not responsive to stimulation and/or breathing is weak. This leads to passing out, coma, and then death. Within 3-5 minutes without air, brain damage starts to occur, soon followed by death. Fortunately, this process doesn’t happen instantly; people slowly stop breathing which usually happens minutes to hours after the drug was used.

Risk Factors

Mixing Drugs, Low Tolerance, Using Alone, Change in quality, Change in consumption

Signs of Overdose

Unresponsive, Slow breathing, Lack of breathing, Blue lips/fingertips

What is Naloxone (Narcan)?

Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) is a medication called an “opioid antagonist” used to counter the effects of opioid overdose, for example fentanyl and heroin overdose. Naloxone only works if someone has opiates in their system, and there is no known risk of using Naloxone if someone does not have opiates in their system.

Accessing Naloxone (Narcan)

  • Obtain a prescription from your prescriber and have it filled at your preferred pharmacy. The pharmacy can dispense it and bill your insurer.
  • Go directly to a pharmacy and request a naloxone kit. A prescription from a prescriber is not needed.
  • Naloxone can also be distributed at these locations.
  • Contact Project RECOVER for Naloxone if you cannot access from mentioned locations.

Vital steps for responding to an opioid overdose:

    1. Assess the person
    2. Alert the person verbally & sternal rub
    3. Call 911
    4. Perform rescue breathing 
    5. Administer Narcan (Naloxone)
    6. Monitor and support
    7. Place person in rescue position, on side with mouth and nose unobstructed

Additional Resources:

  1. End Mass Overdose – Boston Based NGO focused on prevention, harm reduction, and OEND training for opioid use.
  2. Massachusetts Department of Public Health OEND Information Sheet – Provides comprehensive list of all OEND training and distribution sites.
  3. Harm Reduction Coalition – OEND data/research and information