Home > Providing emergency help to someone having an overdose: your experiences.

Scottish Drugs Forum. (2022) Providing emergency help to someone having an overdose: your experiences. Glasgow: Scottish Drugs Forum.

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This report describes the experiences of people who have given assistance to someone who presented as having an overdose and explores their subsequent support needs. It is based on the survey responses of 285 people who have provided emergency help. This included support workers, healthcare professionals, emergency services workers, family members, and members of the public. Respondents completed an online survey about their interactions with emergency services, the use of naloxone, the support they received, and were also asked about what support would be helpful. 

The paper’s recommendations, based on these responses, highlight the need for more people to be trained to use naloxone, as well as the need for an increase in availability of the opioid overdose reversal drug. Other recommendations include the development of near fatal overdose pathways – which would mean people who had experienced an overdose could promptly be offered help by services to reduce the chance of this happening again, and better training for emergency call handlers. The latter recommendation was based on the findings that some call handlers gave advice that conflicted with emergency response advice included in their naloxone training.

Attention is also paid to the attitudes and approaches involved in providing emergency help to someone experiencing an overdose. Emergency responders are encouraged to view people experiencing an overdose as vulnerable people requiring immediate support. This is as part of the effort to reduce stigma.

The study also underlines the importance of support being provided to those who have intervened in overdose situations. Due to the trauma sometimes experienced by those who have provided help, particularly family members, support in the form of having someone to speak to, to reflect on and process the experience, is among the recommendations.

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