Overdose Prevention Planning and Tools for Overdose Detection


By Gordon Casey of Brave Coop. This piece is excerpted from Medium.


Brave has been working on preventing overdose deaths for 4 years now. And it’s working! We have just reached 101 overdoses (and counting). We are a cooperative that builds tools to detect and respond to overdose. Our tools include an app, buttons, and a sensor. They are co-designed with people who use drugs to make overdose detection accessible to everyone, especially those most at risk.

Brave tools are just one part of any successful overdose response and reversal. Is it fair to say our tools prevent overdose? Trigger overdose response? Do they “save lives”? We don’t think so… and in the course of realising precisely what they do and what they don’t do, we’ve come to recognize something: there is a conversation we need to have around what is needed to stop people from dying if they are using alone, if they are using behind closed doors.


There are so many reasons why people choose to use alone. Even if you have access to a safe consumption site, there are reasons why someone might not  go there. 


Best practice at the moment says “don’t use alone” and if you have access to one, use at a supervised consumption site. But, again, there are so many reasons why people choose to use alone; and even if you have access to a safe consumption site, there are myriad reasons why someone might not go there.

Overdose detection is the thing that can get help to you if you overdose when you are using alone.

What does overdose detection look like in practice? Probably like a lot of things you’re already doing. Overdose detection tools are anything designed to trigger overdose response or send out an alert if you appear to be overdosing. They are everywhere, they are diverse, and most importantly, they are the foundation of every successful overdose response:

  • leaving your door ajar while using drugs so your neighbours know to check on you;
  • texting your friend that if you don’t text them again in 10 minutes, they need to come check on you or send help;
  • calling down to the front desk of your supportive housing building to ask for a wellness check in 5 minutes;
  • an app or phone line for remote supervision (our app, of course, the NORS phone line in Canada, NeverUseAlone line in the US, or the Canary app for iOS);
  • washroom sensors like the ones in Boston or ours;
  • a wearable or other technology that can detect if you appear to be overdosing;
  • our buttons to request asynchronous monitoring within supportive housing;
  • even simply using drugs in a public space so that someone will (hopefully) recognise what’s going on if you overdose;
  • all the other things I can’t think of but you can!


Brave’s tools are for those times when someone is using alone, it’s Overdose Detection for everyone who is at risk of overdose. Whenever or wherever they are.

To connect with the Brave team to talk about overdose detection and their tools, visit the Brave site.