Nova Scotia

Halifax man uses naloxone to save friend from overdose

On Wednesday, Rick Marshall saved the life of a close friend in Halifax by injecting him with the opiate overdose antidote, naloxone.

'I'm happy he's alive,' says Rick Marshall, who used the take-home kit

Halifax man uses naloxone to save friend from overdose

6 years ago
Duration 1:08
Rick Marshall describes injecting his friend with an opiate overdose antidote drug called naloxone.

Rick Marshall is on an incredible high, but not from a drug. On Wednesday, he saved the life of a close friend in Halifax. He injected the man with the opiate overdose antidote drug, naloxone.

"The guy's alive today, let's be grateful," Marshall said proudly.

He was trained how to spot signs of an overdose and how to administer the drug. He was among the first to receive the instruction in February at Direction 180, the city's methadone clinic.

Marshall, 60, was sent home with a kit including two vials of the drug and syringes, and put them to use on a friend. He's believed to be the first success story of the Nova Scotia pilot program.

'You see someone that's dying, it's not pretty'

"I'm happy he's alive," he said during an interview in a parking lot behind the clinic.

Marshall says he prayed he'd never have to put the new skills to use.

"It's hard, you see someone that's dying, it's not pretty," he said.

Marshall says he was on Gottingen Street and realized he hadn't seen his friend recently. He learned his friend was last seen two days ago lying on a table in a rooming house.

He said he's seen his friend, who's in his late 30s or early 40s, abuse opiates like Dilaudid, as well as crack cocaine and benzodiazepenes.

'I saved your life, you were going'

Rick Marshall says training taught him how to inject naloxone into a large muscle of someone who's overdosing. (CBC)

Marshall says he jumped on his bike, dashed home, grabbed his kit and headed for the rooming house.

He says he found his friend lying on a bed and called his friend's name. The man's lips were blue, his breathing was slow and he was in a confused state, the telltale symptoms of an opiate overdose. 

"I'm slapping the guy, I'm shaking him, right," said Marshall.

Took effect quickly

Marshall said he rolled his friend over, filled the syringe with naloxone, jabbed the needle into his friend's backside and then started chest compressions. Soon, his friend started to snap awake. During training, he learned that drug users often react violently when they emerge from an overdose.

"I backed up and said 'It's Rick, it's Big Rick,'" he said. "Listen buddy, I saved your life, you were going."

The whole episode only lasted a couple of minutes, Marshall estimates. He says his friend thanked him and seemed embarrassed. After he was sure his friend was going to be fine, he chose not to call 911 because it could cause problems, which is something he described to CBC News last fall.

Marshall then went to Direction 180, where staff discussed the naloxone experience with him.

Naloxone's use praised at Direction 180

Cindy MacIsaac, executive director of Direction 180, says the life that was saved with naloxone is a cause for celebration. (CBC)

"It's cause for celebration, but not celebration without thinking about all of the lives that we could have saved," said Cindy MacIsaac, the clinic's executive director.

She says she started lobbying the province three years ago to fund a naloxone take-home kit program.

So far, the clinic has distributed about 90 kits and 140 people have been trained. MacIsaac's goal is to increase access to naloxone, and to expand access to methadone and Suboxone treatment for opiate addiction.

Marshall is one of Direction 180's methadone treatment clients. He received a new replacement kit, just in case.

"As far as I'm concerned we have hope to save people. You know why we have hope? I proved it today," said Marshall.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at elizabeth.chiu@cbc.ca.

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