Overdose Prevention

There is overdose risk in any type of drug use. The safest choice is to not use drugs. For those who do use drugs, practice as much harm reduction as possible, consistently, to stay safer when choosing to use drugs. This information is intended to reduce harm, and does not eliminate all risk of using drugs. 

Related Services

Help Prevent Overdose

Naloxone (also known as Narcan) is a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, allowing the individual to restore breathing until further medical care is available. Naloxone works almost immediately, has no potential for abuse, and has no effect on a person who doesn’t have opioids in their system. Naloxone is readily available to the public, often at no cost. Learn how to administer and access naloxone near you.

More than half of the teens who have used medications not prescribed to them say they got them free from a friend or relative. On average, 5 children are seen every hour in emergency departments for medicine poisoning in the United States. Take steps to ensure your home is safe by securing medicines up and away from children and pets. Learn more safe storage tips here. Safely dispose of unwanted or expired medications by utilizing a local take back program. All pharmacies in SLO County offer a FREE disposal program by providing either a mail back envelope or in-store drop box for discarding medications.

If a person is unresponsive, it may be an overdose. Act quickly and call 911. Minutes matter - irreversible brain damage and/or death can occur after only 5-10 minutes of overdose restricting breathing. Calling 911 immediately and administering naloxone as soon as possible is the best chance at saving a person’s life. CA’s Good Samaritan Law protects a person rendering emergency care from liability resulting from their acts or omissions.

Many people with a substance use disorder experience stigma from the community, which might include inaccurate or unfounded thoughts that they are dangerous, incapable of managing treatment, or at fault for their condition. These stigmas typically come from the inaccurate belief that addiction is a moral failing, when it, in fact, is a chronic, treatable disease from which individuals can recover and lead successful lives. These stigmas can leave the person needing treatment feeling shameful, and possibly deter them from seeking out the help they need. Harm reduction programs help reduce these feelings of shame by treating individuals with dignity and respect. By meeting the person where they’re at and providing tools and resources to lessen the risks of substance use, harm reduction programs support the well-being of people using substances and help support them in their journey to health.

Figuring out the how, what, where of getting help with a substance use disorder can be confusing, but there is help! Choose Change California provides an easy pathway to understanding how to get support for people affected by substance use disorder.

Individuals within San Luis Obispo County can connect with local treatment resources by calling 1(800) 838-1381 for information or to schedule an appointment. All services are available in English or Spanish. For those looking for resources outside of San Luis Obispo County, use the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to find national treatment facilities.

There is overdose risk in any type of drug use. Practicing as much harm reduction as possible, consistently, to stay safer when choosing to use drugs.

  • Test for fentanyl: the drug supply has always been inconsistent. Fentanyl makes it even more dangerous. Testing for fentanyl gives you better information about what you'll consume. 
  • Go slow and space out doses: overdoses can happen quickly, and with fentanyl it only takes a little. Start slow, you can always to more, but you can't do less.
  • Know your method's risk: injecting drugs carries the highest risk of overdose. Reduce your risk by choosing to smoke or snort. You can still overdose, so practice other harm reduction methods also.
  • Never use alone: try to have someone you trust around when using to watch out for overdose. If you are going to use by yourself, call "Never use alone" at 1-800-484-3731. You will be asked for your first name, location, and the number you are calling from. An operator will stay on the line with you while you use. If you stop responding after using, the operator will notify emergency services of an "unresponsive person" at your location.
  • Have naloxone and call 911: know the signs of overdose and how to use naloxone. Fentanyl and its analogs are not "naloxone resistant." They are opioids and will respond to naloxone. A fentanyl overdose may take longer to respond to naloxone, and may need more doses to reverse the overdose. Always call 911 in case of overdose, even if you have naloxone. Additional medical care may be needed

Fentanyl Test Strips

Fentanyl Test Strips (FTS) work best when the entire substance is tested. Since fentanyl doesn't always distribute evenly throughout a substance, it is possible to have a false negative if not all of the substance is tested. Test strips are not 100% accurate; they are one tool to reduce risk. Follow the directions below to test your drugs before using, and proceed with caution!

  1. Finely chop or crush the substance into a powder, and put all the drug you plan to consume into a container.

  2. Add water & stir to dissolve (1 tsp for 10mg of meth & MDMA; 2 tsp for 100mg everything else; add enough water to dissolve the power of a pressed tablet)

  3. Test the liquid. Put the wavy side of the test strip in, not past the blue line. Allow the liquid to move into the test area (wait about 15 seconds).

  4. Wait about 2 minutes. ONE red line is positive for fentanyl. TWO red lines is negative.

CAUTION! Fentanyl test strips are not 100% accurate. They are one tool to help increase safety. No drug use is 100% safe. Follow safe use tips and proceed with caution.

Fentanyl test strips (FTS) are a low-cost method of helping prevent drug overdoses and reducing harm. FTS are small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl in all different kinds of drugs (cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc.) and drug forms (pills, powder, and injectables). FTS provide people who use drugs and communities with important information about fentanyl in the illicit drug supply so they can take steps to reduce risk of overdose.

Fentanyl test strips can be added to your Naloxone Now SLO order, or they can be requested from any SLO County Drug & Alcohol Services Clinic (available to any member of the public; you don't have to be a client).  Community members can also contact SLO Bangers Syringe Exchange Program (please call 805-458-0123, email [email protected]) for FTS and other harm reduction needs.