Rehabs’ Failure to Give Lifesaving Naloxone to Vulnerable Clients Is Unacceptable

Submission Date: Feb 16, 2015
Attributing Author: Meghan Ralston
Source: the influence (


Naloxone’s purpose is, hopefully, to be a one-time use drug that prevents an accidental death. Along with probably saving a life, the close call may and should be a gateway to getting on and staying on the road to recovery…

Lack of education about the sky high risk of overdose after periods of abstinence, and no information or access to naloxone, the life saving, overdose reversal medication takes the lives of many people.  These early periods are when people are most vulnerable to overdose death due to abstinence and tolerance.  This should be part of every discharge plan from treatment centers and upon release from incarceration.

Jeff Cullen was a handsome, athletic young man. A great surfer, who loved goofy comedies like Dumb & Dumber and had an affinity for animals. Pretty much the stereotypical California Golden Boy, except for his long, serious problem with heroin.

On August 5, 2008, he signed up on a four-week waiting list for an intensive, six-month drug treatment program. He died later that evening. A heroin overdose. He was 27 years old.

“Jeff was in nine treatment facilities over 12 years,” says his mother, Denise. “Neither he, nor we, his parents, were ever told about his risk of overdose or anything about overdose prevention, including naloxone.”

Denise Cullen has since become an advocate through her grief-support organization, Broken No More. Her friend and fellow advocate Gretchen Bergman has also experienced the ordeal of her sons enduring opioid addiction.

“I was never informed about naloxone, even when the danger was so high,” Bergman says. “Not when one of my boys would be released from jail. Not when they were on a waiting list for detox or a treatment facility. Not when they were showing signs of relapse.”

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