New laws affect the consequences of calling in an overdose
We were cooking up black tar heroin at his place.
It was early in my junkie career and I didn’t yet know how to hit my vein with the needle. My friend was there to help. As he sucked up the hot black liquid with a syringe, I told him I wanted to do my half in two shots. He asked what for, why not slam it all at once? Why not, I thought. He slid the needle into my arm, my blood flooded in and he pushed the plunger.
A hot wave rushed through me. Nausea. I was so tired. The world closed in. I slid off the couch and everything went black.
The light slowly came back and I began to see. My friend was kneeling over me. He seemed frantic — almost foolish. I couldn’t hear anything, but I could see his silent screams.
I had overdosed. My friend said I turned blue and gurgled. My eyes were wide open. He sat on my chest and tried to slap me awake. He was afraid to call 911, and instead called his girlfriend. She came straight over. When she arrived, I was conscious and outside smoking a cigarette. My friend said he had other plans and left us. She took me home, and I spent the night lying awake in bed afraid to sleep.
My friend, like many drug addicts, didn’t want to call 911, because he was afraid the police would arrive and arrest him for using illegal drugs. And they probably would have. I understood the reasoning, but I still selfishly felt my life was worth a minor drug charge. I also wrongly assumed that there might be legal protections for drug users who sought medical aid.
Only this year did the California “911 Good Samaritan Law” go into effect. The law means to encourage people to seek medical aid when they see someone overdose by providing legal protections against minor drug violations.
In many cases, there is no reason a person should die from an overdose, especially from opiates. For some time now, an opiate overdose antidote has been around called naloxone. In the city, the antidote is given out at needle exchanges in the form of a take-home nasal spray. It’s worked miracles. Before the widespread use of naloxone, hundreds died every year from heroin-related overdoses in the city. From 2010 to early 2012, just eight died.
Back when I was a junkie, the antidote wasn’t available yet at needle exchanges but I knew that paramedics had it. I vowed to always seek aid. So years later when my junkie girlfriend overdosed after I shot her up with too much dope, I called 911 and performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. They revived her in minutes. Just as they were about to take her to the hospital, I reached into her purse and stole all her money. I sneaked off before the police could enter the apartment.
While she sat in the emergency room I called my dealer, went to score and shot up in the parking lot out front. She ended up getting a ticket for being under the influence of a controlled substance.
After that, my girlfriend continued to have mild overdoses, but I would just pump on her chest every five or ten minutes to make sure she was still breathing. I didn’t want to get a ticket, god forbid.
Thanks to the new “911 Good Samaritan” law and naloxone, people no longer need to be placed in the uncomfortable position of having to weigh someone’s life against an arrest.