The Current

Her husband invented naloxone, her son died from overdose, now she advocates for harm reduction

Joy Stampler Fishman's late husband was the co-creator of naloxone. Then, her son died of a drug overdose. Now, she advocates for equipping as many people as possible with the life-saving overdose reversal drug.

Joy Stampler Fishman says her connection to naloxone and her son's death is 'the irony of my life'

A naloxone anti-overdose kit is shown in Vancouver on Feb. 10, 2017. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

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When Joy Stampler Fishman's son died in 2003 from a drug overdose, she says his dealer dumped him at the front of an emergency room and fled, afraid of being arrested.

Looking back, she wishes the life-saving overdose reversal drug her late husband helped invent had been more available at the time.

"I would have made sure that I was carrying naloxone and I would make sure today that every drug dealer has naloxone," Stampler Fishman told The Current's guest host Geoff Turner.

"And I think that's where we're headed." 

'Tough love' philosophy

Her husband, Jack Fishman, co-created naloxone in 1961, but it was not widely used for decades. He died in 2013 before seeing the full impact of the opioid crisis and how his invention saved so many lives. 

Jack Fishman in his lab. (The Rockefeller University)

Stampler Fishman's son struggled with heroin addiction since he was about 17 years old. At the time, she said, the conventional wisdom was for parents to practice "tough love" and disassociate from their children until they got sober.

"That was the basic philosophy 25 years ago. And that's the philosophy that I sadly endorsed at the time," Stampler Fishman said. 

"I didn't get involved in the epidemic at all until many years later when I recognized that it became almost my citizen's duty to go public with my story ...  and the irony of my life."

Click 'listen' near the top of the page to hear the full conversation.

Written by Lito Howse. Produced by Geoff Turner and Matthew Lazin-Ryder.


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