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: Julian
Age: Early 40s
Who is Julian?
Julian lives in an outer suburb of Melbourne. He describes his ethnic background as Australian. He was born in Australia but one of his parents was born in the UK. Julian lives alone and his primary source of income is a Commonwealth Disability Support Pension* related to a chronic back injury. While he had stopped consuming heroin at the time of the interview, Julian stores naloxone at home and carries it in the glovebox of his car so he can assist in an emergency.
Julian describes an event that took place over 20 years ago. Julian and his friend Duane were consuming heroin together at a friend’s house. Duane began to overdose, so Julian attempted to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but then overdosed himself. Julian regained consciousness as he was being treated by paramedics. Very grateful for the intervention of the paramedics, Julian thanked them for their actions. He and Duane were then taken to hospital. Julian left hospital the next morning, while Duane took five days to recover. Reflecting on the overdose, Julian said he did not consume heroin again for about a month afterwards.
We went back to our mate’s place, and Duane and I went into the bathroom to take it. We knew we had to be really careful with how much we took, because we’d heard it was good. Duane couldn’t do himself, so I got his heroin ready and injected him with it.
Then I started injecting myself, but I’d only injected a quarter of my heroin when Duane stood up off the edge of the bath we were sitting on and then hit the floor. Straight away I pulled out the needle, put the lid on it and just let it sit there, because I didn’t know what was going on.
I started giving Duane mouth-to-mouth, and the next thing, I woke up with one ambo guy sitting on my chest, one leaning on my arm and one giving me the Narcan [naloxone]. I’d overdosed too.
I was thankful, and I actually thanked the ambos and shook their hands and everything after they brought us back to life. Then they took us to the hospital.
Later, I was told I’d stopped breathing another five or six times in the hospital that night. I left the next morning, but Duane had to stay in hospital for five days.
Thinking about the event during the interview, Julian recalled that he didn’t consume heroin again for about a month afterwards.
According to Julian (M, late 40s, Vic, non-prescribed opioids) overdose isn’t on his mind any more now that he isn’t consuming heroin, but he describes his past safety strategy, which, as with the others, focuses on testing for strength by injecting a reduced dose.
Yeah. Well, if the guy I was scoring off, if his gear looked different, he wouldn’t actually say, ‘Oh, this is a bit different.’ Everyone always says, ‘Oh, this is the best’ and all the rest, but you never know. I’ve had people tell me ‘this is the best’ and I’ve had to have five times as much, because it didn’t do anything. If you think that way all the time, well, you’re not going to be around for long. So […] if my guy is not [available] and I go somewhere else and it’s different gear, [it may] be much stronger. So there’s always the taste test, and if it tastes stronger, I’d have half as much.
Julian (M, late 40s, Vic, non-prescribed opioids) reports carrying take-home naloxone in case of an emergency. In this instance he explains that he keeps naloxone in his car in case he comes across an overdose, and that he’s told some of his friends about it.
I’m not using [opioids] any more, no. Like, I still have the naloxone in my glove box, so if I’m driving around and see someone on the side of the road or something that [looks like an overdose], I can help. I don’t let anyone use [opioids] in my house, so that’s not a problem, I don’t need one in my house, but, yeah, I’ll still keep it for emergencies in that way […] The first time [I told my friends about naloxone], they’ve said, ‘Oh yeah, what is it?’ I just say, ‘It’s just that when you do the training, you get the little vials and the syringe and everything, and if you’ve got to use it, you just put it in the syringe and put the needle on there and jab someone on the leg and squirt it in.’ But, yeah, nothing else really.
Julian (M, late 40s, Vic, non-prescribed opioids) recounts a situation where he explained his take-home naloxone to two police officers who expressed different opinions about it.
I’ve been pulled over once and they’ve said, ‘What’s that?’ and I’ve said, ‘Naloxone.’ One cop knew what it was and just went, ‘That’s a good idea.’ And the other one didn’t really know, and he was like, ‘What is it?’ and I told him, and he said, ‘Well, you shouldn’t be carrying that around.’ And I said, ‘Well, there’s my card saying I’ve done the training and it’s not illegal. If you want to take some to test it, you’re quite welcome, but leave me with the other two vials in case something happens.’