Essential Overdose Prevention
93,000. That is the approximate number of overdose deaths that occurred in 2020. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it was the highest number of overdose deaths in recorded history. The US saw overdoses increase by 29.4% and here in Texas we were ahead of that with a 31.9% increase.
For context, 93,000 is the approximate population size of the University of Texas, Texas Tech University, and St. Edward’s University, combined. While a variety of substances contributed to the overdoses, 69,710 were attributed to opioids.
Although a multitude of unfortunate factors were at play in 2020, fentanyl is largely responsible for the sharp increase in overdose deaths.
As grim as these numbers may be, the situation is not hopeless. There are steps that people who are actively using can take to keep themselves and others safe. Below are some tips and resources to help reduce harm.
Test your supply
Yup, instead of just getting drug tested, you can flip the script and test your drugs. Fentanyl testing strips can be purchased online and can be used in the privacy of your home to test your supply. A caveat: make sure you get your strips from a trusted source. The strips sold at DanceSafe have been verified to detect fentanyl, as well as Carfentanil and eleven other analogs.
According to DanceSafe, the most important thing to know about fentanyl is that when mixed with other drugs, it is never mixed evenly, something referred to as the “chocolate chip cookie effect.” This means that each dose should be tested, not just one sample from a baggie.
Keep in mind that the testing strips cannot detect every single known synthetic opioid, so a negative result does not necessarily mean that your supply is totally safe. Visit DanceSafe.Org for more information or to purchase testing strips.
Narcan on Hand
Naloxone or Narcan is the single most important tool in your arsenal if you use drugs. Even if you don’t use opioids, it is so important to have it since an increasing amount of drugs, including MDMA, cocaine, and counterfeit pills contain fentanyl and its analogs. Narcan is easy to access, easy to use and can literally reverse an overdose.
Not sure where to get Narcan? Try here!
To learn more about how Naloxone saves lives, check out the video below.
Change your use patterns
It’s easy to fall into habits, and when we do, we tend to pay less attention, we begin to take safety measures for granted. If you choose to use, please be safe and implement the tips below whenever possible.
1. Avoid using alone. If possible, use with others, or at least let someone know where you are and when you are planning to use so they can check on you or send help if needed.
2. Consider smoking or snorting instead of injecting. Overdose risk is highest with injections.
3. Go slow and low. Use less and slow down your use, especially if you have had a period of abstinence.
4. Don’t neglect good self-care. Your overall health can impact your overdose risk. Try to be rested, hydrated, and nourished before using.
5. Use in a familiar environment. Opioid overdoses are more likely to occur in when you are in a setting you aren’t familiar with.
Support if you need it
If you are struggling with opioid use or dependence and need help, Substance Use Therapy is here. Whether you are interested in learning more about harm reduction, examining your use, or a path toward sobriety, you and your goal will always be respected. Whatever you are facing, you don’t have to face it alone.
Chappell, B. (2021, July 14). Drug Overdoses Killed A Record Number Of Americans In 2020, Jumping By Nearly 30%. https://www.npr.org/2021/07/14/1016029270/drug-overdoses-killed-a-record-number-of-americans-in-2020-jumping-by-nearly-30.
Denning, P., & Little, J. (2017). Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide to Controlling Your Drug and Alcohol Use. The Guilford Press.
About the Author:
Kimberly May, LPC-S, LMFT is a therapist at Substance Use Therapy in Austin, TX. Kimberly works with individuals, couples and families whose lives have been affected by substance use. By utilizing a harm reduction framework, Kimberly works effectively with people in any stage of use. In addition to substance use, she works with other issues such as anger, gambling, anxiety and grief. Contact today to schedule a no-charge, 30 minute consultation.