Published May 4, 2023 | Originally published on MedicalXpress Breaking News-and-Events
When Ju Park was studying epidemiology in graduate school, she volunteered with a harm reduction organization that trained local community members on how to prevent a drug overdose. She traveled around the state to demonstrate how the medication naloxone can be used to reverse an overdose from opioids if administered in a timely manner.
After one session, a mother whose daughter had a substance abuse disorder approached Park to share a heartbreaking story: The daughter, who had been in and out of rehabilitation centers, recently experienced a relapse. She locked herself into a bathroom alone, overdosed on drugs, and died. The mother expressed gratitude for the naloxone training and told Park that she was eager to do more to help other families dealing with addiction. Park couldn't bear to tell the woman what she was thinking: Training bystanders how to administer naloxone wouldn't have saved her daughter, because nobody had been present to help.
"It made me wonder: What are we doing to help people who are using drugs alone and in secret?" recalled Park, who is now an assistant professor of epidemiology (research) at Brown University's School of Public Health and an assistant professor of medicine (research) at Brown's Warren Alpert Medical School.
That question continued to preoccupy Park as she established the Harm Reduction Innovation Lab at Rhode Island Hospital with the mission to develop, implement and evaluate interventions to promote the health and well-being of people who use drugs.
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