From 2020 to 2021, the U.S. surpassed 100,000 drug overdose deaths annually–a grim milestone that reflects the severity of the opioid epidemic. The vast majority of drug overdose deaths are attributed to opioids, and the majority of opioid overdose deaths involve synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl.
Fentanyl can be lethal in small amounts. As much fentanyl as about a grain of rice can be deadly to someone who doesn’t have a high opioid tolerance. With more people dying as a result of opioid overdose deaths than ever before, it is essential for teens, young adults, and anyone who uses drugs to understand how to prevent overdose deaths.
One way to prevent a drug overdose death is to never use drugs alone. In other words, don’t hole yourself up in your bedroom and ingest unknown substances–always make sure there is someone around who can call 911 and get you help in the event of an emergency.
While not using drugs alone may sound simple, it isn’t that easy to do in practice. Many people conceal their drug use from family and friends because they don’t want their loved ones to find out the truth. There is a lot of stigma surrounding addiction, and people suffering from addiction often feel shame, embarrassment, and fear when it comes to their families and friends. This causes people to use drugs in solitude–where nobody can call for help when an overdose occurs.
Isolation is common among people struggling with addiction, but one nonprofit, toll-free hotline, Never Use Alone, exists to change this.
The Never Use Alone Hotline
Never Use Alone Inc. is an all-volunteer, peer-lead, and peer-run nonprofit organization that was founded in 2019 and incorporated in 2021 with the goal of working towards ending the opioid overdose crisis. The organization operates a National Overdose Prevention Call Center that provides crisis intervention and response hotline services to aid individuals who are using drugs in solitude.
According to their website, www.neverusealone.com, hotline operators receive phone calls from people who are using substances alone. People call from their homes, cars, public restrooms, workplaces, and more. All peer support hotline operators are fully trained in substance use safety and safe drug consumption. They also specialize in detecting adverse drug events, such as allergic reactions or overdoses, and are prepared to contact local emergency medical services who can then arrive at the overdose site and reverse the overdose.
Never Use Alone claims to practice “no judgment, no stigma, just love.”
As of December 21, 2022, the hotline has received 17,800 calls, served 7,600 people, and assisted in reversing 88 drug overdoses.
What Happens When You Call
When you call the Never Use Alone hotline, a volunteer will answer your call with compassion and understanding. You will be asked for your name, although you can provide a fake one if you choose. In addition to a name, you’ll be asked for your phone number, what substance you are using, and your exact location. Be sure that you do not give them a false location. After all, knowing your precise location is essential. If you experience an overdose, the volunteer must know where to send emergency medical services to.
After providing the basic information you may use your drugs while staying on the line. The volunteer will ask you to tell them when you are done administering your drugs so they can be mindful of the time that passes. The volunteer will continue talking to you for at least 10 minutes to make sure that you’re not going to overdose. However, if you stop responding for more than 30-45 seconds, they will contact EMS and send help your way.
If the volunteer has to call EMS, they will report you as an “unresponsive person,” rather than an “overdose” to reduce the chances of police responding and eliminate the risk of you getting in trouble with the police. Still, in situations such as these, is it most important that you get emergency help–even if the police are involved.
Your personal information is not shared with anyone other than EMS.
The Hotline is Always Available
While sobriety is the best way to prevent overdose, addiction is a serious, complex disease that doesn’t always make sense. People who struggle with addiction are unable to control or moderate their drug use, so they will use drugs regardless of the consequences. Still, these individuals deserve a second chance. They don’t deserve to overdose and die. By utilizing the Never Use Alone hotline, people can get their overdoses reversed so they can continue living, and hopefully, one day seek the treatment they deserve.
The no-cost hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether it is the middle of the night and you’re alone in your bedroom or it is the middle of the day and you’re alone at work, the free hotline is available to stay with you while you use drugs, making sure you practice safe consumption and remain responsive on the other line.
If you use drugs, consider saving the Never Use Alone hotline in your contacts. If possible, you may even save the number in the phones of people you love who use drugs so they have access to the resource, too. The phone number is 1-800-484-3731.