Widespread overdoses in Austin, Texas, initiate online conversation about naloxone

Last week in Austin, Texas, police launched an investigation after widespread overdoses due to opioids and other drugs resulted in multiple deaths and hospitalizations. Local news stations reported that after the overdose surge, police seized cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana laced with fentanyl. In response to the overdoses, community health care medics passed out 150 naloxone kits to local residents. Within days of the overdose surge, news about the overdoses—including articles and local news video clips—spread across multiple social media platforms, with some posts receiving thousands of views. Some social media users are urging local officials to make naloxone available to more residents, including unhoused communities, while others claim that closing the border would be a more effective way to prevent overdose deaths.

Recommendation: Conversations about the overdose surge in Austin, Texas, provide an opportunity for health agencies, community-based organizations, and other partners in Texas to push out existing messaging about where to access naloxone, as well as when and how to use it. Messaging may emphasize that using naloxone—often sold under the brand name “Narcan”—is the only way to reverse an opioid overdose. Trending conversations about naloxone also provide an opportunity to push out messaging that outlines the signs of opioid overdose. Additionally, while fentanyl test strips are illegal in Texas, partners in states that do not criminalize the possession of fentanyl test strips may ensure that informational materials about overdose prevention include clear instructions on how to access and use fentanyl test strips.