16th November 2021
We agree with the UK Government when it says; “We strongly advise anyone using drugs not to use alone”. An Overdose Prevention Phone Line is a simple way to help people follow that official advice, and we are pleased to have helped bring the idea to the UK.
The UK has suffered record levels of drug-related deaths year after year, with over 4000 people losing their lives this way in 2020. But many of those dying from overdoses could have been saved if someone had been on hand to treat them - for example with the heroin overdose antidote Naloxone. Instead they used, and died, alone.
As part of its response to the drug death crisis, Scotland has just announced they will be piloting their ‘Never Use Alone’ phone line run by the treatment provider We Are With You, in Glasgow and Ayrshire.
What is an Overdose Prevention Phone Line?
An Overdose Prevention Phone Line is a number you can call when you are about to use drugs alone. The operator will ask for some basic information before you use, including what you want to be called, the number you are calling from (so they can call back if cut-off), an exact location and how to get in, and what you are about to take. If you do not respond after using your substance, they will notify emergency services of your location and possible overdose, so a medical professional can get to you as quickly as possible.
Information provided is otherwise confidential, callers are treated with respect, in a non-judgemental way, and may be provided with other useful information such as locations of needle exchanges, or where to get Naloxone or other support and services.
Pat Hudson, Campaigner with Transform’s Anyone's Child Project said: "At a time when we have record drug deaths across the UK, I really welcome Scotland's Never Use Alone phone line. I wish that when my child Kevin took an overdose, there had been someone on the other end of a phone ready to call an ambulance when he stopped talking to them. Then he might still be alive. And instead of grieving for him every day, my family could be watching him make good use of his many talents."
Where has this been done before?
This remains a new idea, with the first such service being set up in the US in Sept 2019 - the ‘Never Use Alone’ line is also on Facebook; followed in 2020 by a Canadian service run by Grenfell Ministries. You can read their Operational Guidelines here.
The US phone line had received 3300 calls as of May 2021, with 17 emergency overdose callouts, all of whom survived. By April 2021, the Canadian line had received over 500 calls, with another 2000 using a linked phone-app.
Never Use Alone US: “We will never shame, judge, or preach about stopping. If you are interested in getting help, we have resources available for you, but we will never push them on you. We recognize that you will only quit, when you're ready to quit. We just want to help keep you alive until that time comes!”
A ‘Never Use Alone’ phone line for the whole UK is needed, but we also need physical Overdose Prevention Centres people can walk into, and use under supervision, which would be even safer, and accessible to those who don’t have a phone, or who are using on the street.