Since 2004, the Baltimore City Health Department’s Staying Alive Drug Overdose Prevention and Response Program has taught more than 3,000 injection drug users, drug treatment clients and providers, prison inmates, and corrections officers about how to prevent drug overdoses. More than 220 reversals (lives saved) have been documented.
One survey of injection drug users found that approximately 50 percent personally experience at least one non-fatal overdose, and 70 percent witness at least one overdose during their injection career. Drug overdose is now the second-leading cause of accidental death in America, according to The Drug Policy Alliance.
The Staying Alive training program teaches individuals how to recognize an opiate/heroin overdose and respond by calling 911 and administering rescue breathing and the drug Naloxone (also known as Narcan).
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that effectively reverses life-threatening symptoms of patients who have overdosed on heroin or other opioids. Naloxone is safe; patients experience few side effects and there are no negative effects on people who are free of opioids. Emergency medical technicians have long used Naloxone as an intramuscular or intravenous injection. Naloxone can also be administered intranasally, reducing the risk of disease transmission by accidental needle sticks.
The Staying Alive program also links drug users to substance abuse treatment and other services.
Since launching the Staying Alive program, the number of Baltimore City residents who died of drug overdose associated with use of heroin and other opioids has decreased significantly. In 2006, the death rate from drug overdose in Baltimore City was more than three times higher than the national average and was among the top 10 leading causes of death in the city. In 2007, 213 Baltimore City residents died of drug overdose associated with use of heroin and other opioids.