National statistics on fatal drug overdoses in 2019 have not been officially released yet, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, 67,367 people have died from a drug overdose in 2018, averaging 185 people per day.
Fentanyl, originally approved to treat severe pain for patients suffering from advanced or terminal cancer, is a very potent opioid but its illicit form has been responsible for most of these deaths. It has been on the rise due to its increased availability outside of a medical setting. It can be easily made, distributed, and mixed in with other drugs because it is cheaper and produces a powerful high leading to an increase in fatal overdoses.
As overdose deaths are becoming more prevalent in the United States, so is harm reduction, which is a set of programs and practices that aim to keep the public safe and to minimize death, disease, and injury of those who have substance abuse disorder. Some examples of harm reduction include safe syringe exchange programs, supervised injecting facilities, medication assistance treatment (MAT) centers that offer methadone and buprenorphine (medications used to reduce the cravings of opioids and lessen withdrawal effects), counseling and educational programs that address and treat underlying issues of drug use such as trauma or mental illness, and testing for dangerous diseases often associated with intravenous drug use such as HIV and Hepatitis C.
A more common and easily accessible form of harm reduction is the administration of naloxone. Often sold under the brand name Narcan or Evzio, it is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse opioid overdoses (such as those from heroin, oxycodone, or hydrocodone). It does not treat addiction and it is not a cure. It prevents the effects of these opioids and can restore respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped. The injection of naloxone with a syringe is primarily given by medical professionals. The autoinjector and nasal spray delivery systems were designed for use by non-medical professionals during a suspected overdose. Signs of an overdose are (but not limited to):
Unconsciousness, or inability to wake up
Slow, shallow, irregular or no breathing
Pale, blue, cold and/or clammy skin
Choking, snoring, or gurgling sounds
Slow or no heartbeat
If you suspect an overdose, call 911 first or while administering naxolone, attempt rescue breathing or CPR, and remain with the person until professional help arrives. The person who was given this medication should be continuously monitored by medical professionals for as long as instructed, and then they should follow through with any post-care directions.
Naxolone is not harmful in an overdose or when given to someone who did not have opioids in his/her system. Aside from drowsiness or dizziness, and the occasional feelings of withdrawal, it is a very safe medication. However, it is advised to take a training course on how to properly use this outside of a medical facility. Some states require a physician to prescribe naloxone; in other states, pharmacies may distribute naloxone in an outpatient setting without a prescription. It is best to check your state’s protocol and availability for this medication.
As the opioid epidemic continues, harm reduction practices and beliefs are likely to also increase. While naxolone is specifically for those who use opioids, additional harm reduction services are also available to those who use other substances and who hope to become more involved in their own healthcare. Often when used simultaneously with counseling and 12 step programs, harm reduction can empower people to improve the quality of their lives.
We would love to hear your thoughts about harm reduction. Please consider taking our anonymous survey. We do not have access to your personal information.
In Loving Memory Of:
James Patrick White
January 8, 1987 – October 16, 2019
James Patrick White was the part of our family that none of us knew we needed until he came into the picture. About 15 years ago, my sister brought home this goofy redhead who would soon become my brother-in-law. We had a relationship that most wouldn’t understand. I told him the truth about everything and he would get mad at me if he knew I didn’t.
He relied on me in that way. The best part of Jamie, other than his goofy laugh, is his son (my nephew) James Paul. I see a lot of Jamie in him and we talk about his daddy daily. He always looked forward to their Friday nights where they would get dinner and play video games. He was an amazing man with a big heart, and I think a lot of the time he didn’t see that. Unfortunately, he passed away on October 16, 2019. This was 4 months after my sister, Allie, passed. I know they are both at peace watching over their son and knowing he will always be taken care of and loved. We will keep their memories alive forever. Jamie was also an organ donor and was able to save a few people’s lives. We couldn’t be prouder. Thanks for all the laughs and memories that I will always cherish. I love you, Jamie. I hope you are resting easy now.
Kait Van Daniker (Abingdon, MD)
To save lives by becoming an organ donor in your state, please register here.
Ashley Addiction Treatment: An inpatient treatment center that personalizes clinical programs based on individual need. Located in Havre De Grace, MD. Click here to learn more or call 800-799-4673.
Baltimore City Community Risk Reduction Services: Please visit here or call 410-396-3731 for an extensive list of programs and schedules of the city-wide harm reduction services.
Baltimore County Department of Health Harm Reduction Program: Please visit here or call 410-887-2437 for more information about the locally-based public health system that provides a wide range of services to reduce the harms of drug use.
Celebrate Recovery: a local support group for those with addictive behaviors. (The group is held at Mt. Zion Church at 5:45pm on Thursdays and at Mountain Christian Church at 6pm on Fridays.) Please click the links for more details.
GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing): A local support group for those who have lost someone to addiction. (The group meets at 7pm on the 2nd Wednesday of every month at Mt. Zion Church in Bel Air, MD.) Click here to ask to join the private national Facebook group. To register for the monthly Harford County, MD chapter support group, please email email@example.com.
Harford County Health Department: Please visit here for information and locations for harm reduction programs in the county. Please visit here for information and locations for the behavioral health treatment and support options in the county.
The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center: A clinic that provides immediate care for mental health and addiction. Located in Bel Air, MD. Click here to learn more or call 410-874-0711.
Loving an Addict: A local support group for family and friends of those in active addiction. (The group meets every Saturday at 7pm at Mt. Zion Church in Bel Air, MD) Please call 410-836-7444 for more information.
The Maryland Overdose Response Program: Please visit here to find your county’s approved list of naxolone administration programs and locations.
We serve locally but think globally. For counseling, or for addiction, substance abuse disorder, or mental illness treatment, please contact your area’s health department, county government, hospital, or law enforcement agency.
Rage Against Addiction Programs:
2020 Recovery Run / Memory Walk: A 5K fundraiser to benefit Rage’s various programs, and to support those in recovery as well as remember those lost to addiction. Click here to register and make a team. Click here to create a personal fundraiser.
Daughter’s House: A local sober living house designed to assist women who are transitioning from substance abuse treatment. Click here to visit the Facebook page.
HALO (How to Live Without Our Addicted Loved One): An online grief support group for those that lost a family member or friend to addiction. Click here to ask to join the private Facebook page.
RAA ABC (After Baby Care): A program that provides newborn-care items to mothers in recovery. Please send monetary donations to:
Rage Against Addiction (Rage ABC)
PO Box 1
Forest Hill, MD 21050
Rage Club: A program offered for children who are touched by substance abuse disorder. Click here to register.
Rage Against Addiction Team:
Wendy Beck Messner
Founder and Executive Director
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Recovery Coach and Daughter’s House Program Director
Rage Against Addiction
P.O. Box 1
Forest Hill, MD 21050
If you are interested in submitting a photo and story of your recovery, or a photo and a story of your lost loved one, please contact Mia Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org.. (Please keep your story between 350 and 450 words. We reserve the right to edit your content for spelling, punctuation, etc.)