Addiction
Explainer
Provides context or background, definition and detail on a specific topic.

What to do if you are helping a stranger who is overdosing

It seems simple, but in the heat of the moment, would you know what to do?

Mark Brennae
December 13, 2023
Addiction
Explainer
Provides context or background, definition and detail on a specific topic.

What to do if you are helping a stranger who is overdosing

It seems simple, but in the heat of the moment, would you know what to do?

Mark Brennae
Dec 13, 2023
Photo: British Columbia Emergency Photography
Photo: British Columbia Emergency Photography
Addiction
Explainer
Provides context or background, definition and detail on a specific topic.

What to do if you are helping a stranger who is overdosing

It seems simple, but in the heat of the moment, would you know what to do?

Mark Brennae
December 13, 2023
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What to do if you are helping a stranger who is overdosing
Photo: British Columbia Emergency Photography

So, you’re walking down the street and you come across someone who looks to be overdosing. Your empathy trumps your natural fear, so you decide you want to help. But, what do you do?

We bounced that scenario off Paige Aoki, the education team co-ordinator at AVI Victoria, which provides services for people who use drugs.

“My biggest thing,” she tells Capital Daily, “is always trying to approach with as much consent as I possibly can, which in this case, can be just like, ‘Hey, you know, my name is Paige, I just want to see how you're doing, Can I do anything for you?’”

Prompted by an email from Cate, a Capital Daily reader, we asked Paige for a list of dos and don’ts when coming to the aid of a stranger who is having a medical emergency that appears to be drug-related.

Do: Try to get consent before approaching. Communicate clearly.
Don’t: Rush in not knowing how safe the situation is.

Do: Say your name and state your intentions.
Don’t: Assume they know what you’re going to do.

Do: Call 9-1-1 if they are not breathing and are unresponsive.
Don’t: Assume someone else will call 9-1-1.

Do: Check for a pulse if possible.
Don’t: Perform chest compressions on someone with a pulse.

Do: Check, breathing, the colour of lips/skin if someone is unresponsive.
Don’t: Administer Naloxone to someone if they say no. (If they become responsive, even weakly, or speak, they don’t need it).

Do: Provide rescue breaths if they are not breathing. (Top priority in an overdose).
Don’t: Assume someone is breathing if you cannot wake them.

Do: Stay calm and be kind/supportive/encouraging to the person if they awake before help arrives.
Don’t: Try to pressure someone to go with paramedics if they don't want to.

Do: Be kind and offer support if you see someone struggling.
Don’t: Continue to insert yourself into the situation if they ask you to leave.

Do: Remember people are doing their best, often with limited support and resources.
Don’t: Perpetuate stigma and harm by judging someone in crisis. 

Do: Keep someone comfortable. (If appropriate, roll them onto side into the recovery position).
Don’t: Move someone with a possible spinal/head/neck injury.  

Do: Carry Naloxone.
Don’t: Assume it will be available. (Pharmacies, usually. Places of business, not always).

Do: Learn how to use Naloxone.
Don’t: Rely on Naloxone alone to reverse an overdose. (Multiple doses may be needed).

Some people are hesitant to get involved for many reasons. But you should know, as a bystander there are two laws that can help protect you from any litigious situations, should you decide to get involved.

The Good Samaritan Act protects people who give reasonable assistance to someone in need.

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act protects people from being charged with other offences, including possession of drugs/weapons.

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What to do if you are helping a stranger who is overdosing
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