A few weeks ago, I was walking near Longfellow Square when I came across a gentleman relaxing in a shaded area of grass. Normally, I would have envied his carefree state before ambling on. This time, however, I immediately became concerned. Was this man overdosing?

Questions of whether to awaken him and how the subsequent awkward conversation would go swirled in my mind. I wish I could say that I roused him and established that he was not overdosing; however, after watching him for several seconds and convincing myself that I saw his chest rise normally, I continued walking.

As a physician, I consider myself an advocate for people suffering from addiction. Yet even I found myself in a situation where my reluctance to act could have made me a passive witness to an overdose. Given the startling rise in opioid overdoses and deaths in our state, I imagine many members of our community find themselves in this situation. I urge each reader to consider how they would react in this circumstance.

International Overdose Awareness Day is a worldwide movement, with events held on or around Aug. 31. Locally, there will be a vigil at Deering Oaks (at the bandstand) this Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., organized by the incredible staff and volunteers of the India Street Needle Exchange. It’s an opportunity to remember and celebrate the lives of community members whose lives ended all too abruptly.

I invite you to join the event and bear witness to the effects this disease can have on friends, families and community. Health care providers will be present to provide information on addiction treatment options and prescribe naloxone (available as a nasal spray under the brand name Narcan) – a lifesaving medication that reverses the deadly effects of an opioid overdose. Stop by and pick up a prescription – you can save a life.

David Kispert, M.D.

Portland


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