Treating an Overdose: A Family Effort

In today’s New York Times, Mary Callahan, Odyssey House Senior Director of Outpatient Services, responds to a recent article about training children how to administer naloxone. 

To the Editor:

Teaching Children in the Bible Belt How to Reverse an Overdose” (front page, Feb. 24) is not exclusively a rural or suburban problem. In areas of New York City where heroin and synthetic narcotic abuse is prevalent, prevention efforts also include outreach to children of family members of people at risk of a potential overdose.

In our recovery center in the South Bronx, children as young as 7 attend, with their caregiver, overdose reversal trainings where they are taught to recognize the signs of an overdose, shown how to administer naloxone nasal spray, and are instructed to not delay in calling 911.

No one wants young children or teenagers to be responsible for combating an epidemic that is killing thousands of people a year. But until we recognize addiction as a disease that can be treated with behavioral therapy and medications, children will continue to lose parents and other loved ones.

When minutes can make a difference between life and death, better to equip all family members with an easy-to-use medication that, just like an EpiPen, keeps someone alive until emergency services arrive.

Mary Callahan
New York
The writer is director of outpatient services at Odyssey House.