Dave Purchase and Naloxone, Life Savers

By Scott Burris

Start with the sad news of the week. Dave Purchase died, aged 73. Dave was the father of needle exchange in the US, which as far as anyone can say started with Dave and a TV tray in disregard of Oregon’s drug paraphernalia law. Dave was a father figure to a whole generation (or two) of harm reduction advocates and providers. The Times obituary hits the key points in his life story, but not the calm moral force he brought to the movement. He was a man who did the right thing, modestly and steadily, and inspired others to do the same. He saved more lives than most people ever will, and had more friends. We’ll miss him.

On the good news front, Dave would have been happy to spread the word about the latest study on overdose programs using naloxone. Alex Walley and colleagues from Massachusetts reported this week in the British Medical Journal¬†on the effects of the Massachusetts program. Between 2006 and 2009, six community overdose programs were launched to teach potential bystanders about how to recognize and respond to overdose, including with the use of nasal naloxone. Walley’s study reports that the deaths went down in places with the programs compared to places without, and that the reduction was significant in places that had a high level of implementation.

Meanwhile, the removal of legal and financing barriers to overdose programs continues to be a fairly hot item on state legislative agendas. How about every state getting on board? This would be a fine week for a series of “Dave Purchase Life Saver Acts.”

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