Heroin/Downer Overdose Prevention

Learning to deal with drug overdose is a key tool in harm reduction—.


*Warning Signs of an Overdose

-Can’t be woken up by noise or pain.

-Blue lips and fingernails; snoring, gasping, or gurgling.

-Slow or shallow breathing (less than 1 breath every 5 seconds).

-If the person is still unconscious but doesn’t seem OK, try to keep them awake and monitor their breathing.

What to do if someone is overdosing

-Try to wake them up by calling their name, shaking them, or raking their breastbone with your knuckles.

-If you need to leave the person alone, put them on their side so if they vomit, the won’t choke.

-If the person des not respond to noise or pain, call 911. Stay calm. Tell the operator where you are and that someone is not breathing. Stash IDs and drugs if necessary.

-Don’t be scared to call for help because you’re worried that police will arrive—jail is better than death. In San Francisco and other cities, if police come they are ONLY there to back up the paramedics and NOT to arrest anyone.

-If they aren’t breathing, use rescue breathing: at least 1 breath every 5 seconds, tilt their head back and make sure their airway is clear. Pinch the nose closed, and give 1 slow breath every 5 seconds until the paramedics arrive or they start breathing normally. Watch to see that their chest is rising and falling with every breath.

Preventing Overdose

­-Fix with a friend.

-Avoid mixing heroin/pills with alcohol.

-Use less after getting out of jail, the hospital, or detox.

-Release the tourniquet before injecting the whole shot.

-Ask at your local needle exchange about getting naxolone (Narcan), the medication that brings people back from an opiate (heroin) overdose.

-If you live in the Bay Area, you can get naloxone at many places. Call the Drug Overdose Prevention and Education Project (part of the Harmed Reduction Coalition) for more information at 510.444.6969 x16


Harm Reduction 101

-Understand drug use as a complex, multifaceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.

-Establishes quality of individual and community life and wellbeing—not necessarily cessation of all drug use—as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.

-Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm.

-Ensures that drug users and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.

-Affirms drug users themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their drug use, and seeks to empower users to share information and support each other in strategies that meet their actual conditions of use.

-Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination, and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.

-Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit drug use.