The next Simple Action day will be on Friday 31 March, organised in association with Stephanie VandenBerg of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Stephanie is an emergency physician herself, and a Clinical Lecturer at the University of Calgary, currently studying epidemiology at LSHTM.
 
Use our Eventbrite page to tell us you’re coming.
 
 
 

The issue

There is a huge problem with drug overdose in urban and rural communities in North America and in Europe, specifically opiate (heroin, morphine, oxycodone, tablet and IV form) overdose. This is a medication that physicians prescribe for pain however is so good at treating pain, that people easily become dependent on it. When their physician decides to lower their dose and cut off their prescription all together, many, many people will buy these tablets from the black market (their drug dealer). Due to the way the drug works on the body, one of the deadly side effects of the any opiate medication is that is causes a person to stop breathing, which leads to heart attack and brain death. 
 
This article in the Guardian describes the problem in the UK context: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/sep/09/drug-related-deaths-hit-record-levels-england-wales
 
The good news is we have an antidote to the medication. Naloxone (trade name Narcan) is a medication that is currently available as an injection into the muscle (like a flu jab) and reverses the effects of the opiate – literally, wakes them up and brings them back from the dead. 
 
Recently, 100s of people have been dying because their drug dealers are “lacing” (mixing) their drug with a cheap substitute called fentanyl. The problem with fentanyl is that it is 10-100x stronger than what the person was used to getting in to their tablet that they bought from their dealer (like a bartender making your drink with 80% alcohol and you not being aware) and is resulting in a overdose – person stops breathing, turns blue, dies. 
 

The information design problem

For years, street nurses, paramedics and police have carried injectable naloxone with them for emergencies where someone looks like they have overdosed and are not breathing, which can literally save the patients life if it is given right when a nurse/paramedic or police arrive. However, because of stigma with drug use, a lot of people are overdosing and no one calls the police because they fear everyone will get arrested. The solution has been to rapidly hand-out as many of these antidote kits as possible – to emergency department patients, pharmacies, clinics – all for free. The problem is, people don’t know how to use them and the medical community’s approach is complex, involving red tape and hours of teaching sessions that are redundant, clumsy and ineffecient.
 
A re-design of two components (1. recognizing an overdose; 2. how to respond) would make the use of this antidote more user friendly and improve education so people who use and misuse drugs, even on a periodic and recreational basis, can live healthier lives.
 

What is a Simple Action day?

It’s like a design jam or a hackathon. We get together for a day and come up with solutions. After the day some of us take the problem away to finish (a day is never enough) and sometimes students pick it up as a project. It’s good fun, and worthwhile. If you’d like to come, please sign up at our Eventbrite page.