Some Drug Users Are Mixing Heroin with Naloxone to Try to Prevent Overdose

By McCarton Ackerman 11/29/16

Since naloxone only temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid OD, mixing it with heroin should not be looked at as a way to stay safe.

Some Drug Users Are Mixing Heroin with Naloxone to Try to Prevent Overdose
Naloxone nasal spray Photo via YouTube

Naloxone has saved countless lives in the event of a heroin overdose, and some heroin users in British Columbia are now reportedly mixing the substance into their drugs to try and protect themselves, a practice Vancouver paramedics call "yo-yoing."

CTV reported that the practice is increasing among heroin users throughout the province. British Columbia’s government has been handing out overdose prevention kits that include naloxone, but paramedic Sophia Parkinson warns that chasing or mixing heroin with the overdose antidote should not be looked at as a way to stay safe. The naloxone only temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose so people who have been given the lifesaving medicine should not be left alone. She recalled an incident where a man was left unattended in an alleyway after being given a shot of naloxone.

"This patient went down and wasn't breathing when we got there," she said. "These patients need to be followed-up with, taken to hospital to be monitored." Luckily, a good samaritan noticed the man in this instance and dialed 911.

Parkinson admitted that “our crews are running ragged” as heroin overdoses continue to soar throughout the area. In the week of Nov. 17 alone, the Ministry of Health reported that paramedics responded to 494 suspected overdoses in the greater Vancouver area—a record for a single week. More than 600 fatal overdoses have occurred throughout British Columbia this year.

However, British Columbia is taking a typically progressive approach to addressing the crisis. The provincial government allocated $5 million in emergency funding which will go towards transportation for paramedics and medical resupply stations in areas with high overdose rates. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is also continuing to push for two additional safe injection sites in the city and urged Canada's federal government to expedite the application process for them.

"There is no single solution to this overdose crisis,” said Robertson in a statement. “We need both immediate action to better manage this grave emergency and long-term efforts to support treatment and prevention, address mental illness and homelessness, and go after the drug supply.”

Some local residents are also taking matters into their own hands. With Insite, Canada’s lone safe injection site, currently operating at full capacity, a DIY safe injection site began operating in Vancouver in September. Ann Livingston, founder of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), started up the harm reduction site with Sarah Blyth and has been servicing 25 to 40 people per day.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.