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ID: HR23-25
Presenting author: Luke O’Neill

Reaching the 'invisible' with a phone app to prevent fatal overdose.

Meg Jones, Luke O’Neill
BuddyUp is a phone app, based on the Brave and Never Use Alone apps in North America, aiming to prevent overdoses having a fatal outcome. This new service is provided by English drug treatment provider, Cranstoun. Many fatal overdoses occur behind a locked door to a flat, apartment etc. going unnoticed by others on the outside. A large proportion of those are not in treatment for opioid use/dependency, and also often 'invisible' to wider support services. BuddyUp encourages PWUD to use the app to develop tailored emergency rescue plans and to call a supporter on the app who can be with them as they use. If the person later becomes unable to speak or respond they are likely to be unconscious and the rescue plan is enacted, directing emergency services to that location.

We recruited and trained a number of supporters across the UK to receive calls from users of the app. They are able to give advice on reducing overdose risk and other drug related harms, but will only do so when relevant and with the consent of the caller. This is because their main function is to support a caller through a risk event in the way that works best for that caller. Supporters may be largely silent or engage in conversation, again led by the wishes of the caller.

We do not claim to be able to prevent all fatal overdoses with this app but, like Take Home Naloxone or DCRs, it is a important addition in the war against overdose in the UK. Rather than people dying from overdose alone, undiscovered and unsupported, the aim is to connect them to a supporter and to an emergency service if needed. If requested, a further aim is to signpost to treatment and support services in their local area.