Social Experiment Shows Whether Or Not Passersby Will Help A Stranger Overdosing

Cambridge, Mass. is considering putting lockboxes of Naxolone on street corners to combat deaths from opioid overdose.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NaloxoneKit.jpg

Credit: James Heilman, MD

Among the places hit hardest by the opioid crisis, Massachusetts stands out. Every day, the state loses five people to overdose on painkillers, fentanyl, heroin and other opiates. The city of Cambridge is so desperate to curb the epidemic that they are considering placing lockboxes containing Naloxone on street corners.

In an emergency, this life-saving injection or inhalant that can be administered to someone overdosing. To explore the idea of distributing Naloxone in this manner, officials camped out with a dummy in Central Square and asked passers-by if they would be willing to administer Naloxone to save a life.

Narcan, generic Naloxone, saves hundreds of lives daily across the United States. Since the 1970?s, Naloxone has been becoming more available outside of the hospital, and now can be purchased over-the-counter in many states, for relatively affordable prices. It carries little to no health risk, cannot be abused, and is commonly found in the form of a simple nasal spray.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/us/opioids-narcan-drug-overdose-heroin-fentanyl.html

People were asked to give Narcan to a dummy. Credit: Erik Jacobs/New York Times

?We want to see if regular people walking down the street would be willing to help someone who appeared to be overdosing,? said Dr. Scott Goldberg from Brigham and Women?s Hospital, who directed the experiment. ?And if they were willing to help, would they be able to help??

As reported by The New York Times, the experiment went like this: ?Passers-by were asked to pretend they had just found an unconscious person. They were handed a cell phone, which was connected to someone acting as an emergency dispatcher.The dispatcher directed them to a nearby lockbox, gave them a code to open it and then explained how to administer Narcan, a nasal spray.?

Dozens of people agreed to try the experiment. Overall, people were enthusiastic about the idea and felt that it not only acknowledged a sad truth but empowered strangers to help each other. Others thought the box would encourage drug users, and stigmatize locations and businesses.

Cambridge city manager, Louis A. DePasquale, said ?Like so many communities in Massachusetts, Cambridge is experiencing and actively responding to the opioid crisis. Because the prototype boxes would allow bystanders to administer life-saving Narcan to overdose victims before the arrival of EMS, they have the potential of saving lives.?

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