In this section you’ll find participants’ accounts of responding to overdose and the use of take-home naloxone. The people and stories in this section were carefully selected to highlight the diversity in backgrounds and experiences. While this website is not able to tell every possible story of overdose and take-home naloxone in Australia, it can show just how different people and their experiences are. In the stories can be found details of the many important concerns and circumstances our participants negotiated in saving lives in the community.
This section does not include the experiences of all participants. As it focusses on personal experiences of overdose and take-home naloxone, participants who had not encountered overdose or used naloxone do not appear. Overall, 26 of the 46 people who consume opioids are included. The remaining 20 had not encountered opioid overdose or in one case was not able to recount such events in enough detail to create a story for the site.
The stories presented here rely on participant reports of overdose. Some experiences may not conform to medical definitions of overdose, and some responses described may not reflect medical advice.
While these narratives were written from the interview transcripts and rely on their own words, some aspects have been paraphrased to improve coherence and readability. In making these changes we have worked hard to remain faithful to participants’ original meaning and intentions. Some experiences may also be presented in other sections of the website, using more detailed quotations.
Preferred Name: Julia
Age: Mid 50s
Who is Julia?
Julia lives in western Sydney. She describes her ethnic background as ‘Irish’: she was born in England, while both her parents were born in Ireland. Julia has retired and her primary source of income is a Commonwealth Disability Support Pension*. She lives with her partner and friend and has a young child. Julia thinks take-home naloxone is a ‘very useful [and] practical thing’ to give to people who consume drugs or know people who do so.
Julia describes an occasion when her late friend Ella took some heroin and overdosed. Julia injected her in the thigh twice with take-home naloxone to revive her. Ella had been drinking alcohol before she took the heroin, and Julia thought she was probably still drunk after being revived. On a later occasion, Julia called an ambulance to revive Ella when she was overdosing and Julia didn’t have naloxone with her. Julia values take-home naloxone very highly and has passed it on to others to use. She also tries to dispel the myth that police must attend an overdose when an ambulance is called, and said she never hesitates to call an ambulance when it’s needed.
She was a bit cranky, but not cranky with me. I hadn’t known at the time that she had been drinking before she had the shot, but she was still probably quite drunk.
That was the first time I used naloxone. She overdosed on me again another time, when I didn’t have naloxone with me, so I had to call an ambulance for her.
I’ve seen quite a few people overdose and I never hesitate to call an ambulance if it’s needed. I think this is because of how my sister died. Everyone faffed around so much worrying about what was going to happen, because in those days when you called an ambulance for an overdose, they had to send for police. It slowed everything down and she died. A lot of young people died because of that stupid law, so now they’ve changed it.
I’ve met people who still think that the police have to be involved, which amazes me, and I’ve tried to say ‘No, they don’t, and I know this because my sister died because the police had to come.’
I’ve nodded off, but I’ve never overdosed; I’ve never had an ambulance come for myself or been given naloxone. I’m careful not to overdo it when I take heroin. I know exactly how much I’m taking. If I increase it, it’s because I’ve been having the same amount for quite some time and I have just a little bit extra.
Having used take-home naloxone herself and passed it on to people who she felt could use it, Julia said ‘I think it’s a very, very useful, practical thing to give to people who are involved with people who use drugs.’
When Julia (F, mid 50s, NSW, non-prescribed opioids) noticed her friend was overdosing, she didn’t hesitate to respond. She managed to revive her friend but describes her friend as being ‘cranky’ afterwards.
She lost consciousness and I tried to wake her up, and that wasn’t going to happen, you know. I had naloxone on me, so I gave her a couple of shots of that, and that was okay. She came back. [Did you have any hesitations administering it?] Absolutely not, no. I might have thought ‘arm or leg?’ and I went thigh. I gave her one, didn’t do much, gave her another one and that fixed it up. [She was] a bit cranky, but not cranky with me. I mean the thing is, she’d been drinking. I wasn’t aware of that, but she’d been drinking before she had the shot [of heroin], so she was probably still quite drunk, you know.
The first time Julia (F, mid 50s, NSW, non-prescribed opioids) got take-home naloxone, it was from the same service where she picks up injecting equipment.
[The first time I got Narcan] wasn’t that long ago. [It was] probably […] sometime the year before last, and I got it from the needle exchange […] They offered it to me because I didn’t know a thing about it […] I mean I’m quite a friendly person, so I’m on quite good terms with them […I accepted their offer because] I thought it was a great idea […then] they just told me how to use it, yeah.
According to Julia (F, mid 50s, NSW, non-prescribed opioids) take-home naloxone may give family members the confidence to help during an overdose.
I think [take-home naloxone] would give somebody’s mother a big dose of confidence to be able to help in that way, especially if she has been through [an overdose] before and had to call an ambulance. To be able to do it herself and still call the ambulance would make a huge difference. That would be a great idea, you know. Your sisters and brothers or everybody in the family who sees this person, you know. If they know, and if they’re still lucky enough to have family contact, you know.
Similarly, Julia (F, mid 50s, NSW, non-prescribed opioids) describes how she believes her sister’s overdose death resulted in delays in calling an ambulance due to concerns about police attendance.
I have met people who still think the police have to help [at overdoses], which amazes me. I’ve tried to say [to them], ‘No, they don’t, you know’. I know this because my sister died because the police had to come [in the past]. [She overdosed] and everybody faffed around so much worrying about what was going to happen, you know, that they gave her time to die. And a lot of young people died in those days because of that stupid law. So now they’ve changed it.