If you think someone is experiencing an overdose,
give Narcan® and call 9-1-1 immediately.

Call 9-1-1


A megaphone with the word Important under it.

Increase in Cases of Invasive Group A Strep Infections in Vermont

Invasive group A strep infections are serious and may require hospitalization. There is an increased risk of infection for people who use drugs containing xylazine. 

To prevent infection, keep wounds clean, moist, and covered. Seek medical care right away for wounds that may be infected (red, swollen, painful, or warm to touch) or if you have a fever, chills or unexplained nausea or vomiting.

Learn more

How to reduce the risk of an opioid overdose


Avoid using alone

If you overdose while alone, you can die. Let your family and friends know when you are using, show them how to use naloxone and keep it out while you’re using so it can be easily found.

If you have to use alone, call 877-696-1996 or chat at NeverUseAlone.com and someone will stay with you to make sure you are safe.

Call 877-696-1996


Use new syringes

New syringes reduce your risk of infections and help to protect vein health. New syringes and other materials for overdose prevention and injection safety can be found for free at Vermont’s syringe services programs.

Get new syringes


Test for fentanyl with free test strips

Fentanyl can be dangerous and is often found in opioids as well as other drugs like cocaine, meth and any other powder or pill. Fentanyl test strips don’t tell you how much fentanyl may be in your drug, but it can tell you if the sample you are testing has fentanyl in it. Fentanyl test strips are most effective when they are used every time you use. Fentanyl test strips are available at most syringe services programs.

Get fentanyl test strips


Go slow

Start with a small amount to test drug strength. Going slow when using will help you be able to tell how strong your drug is and allow you to not use the full amount if it is stronger than you thought. 


Carry Narcan® (naloxone) nasal spray and know how to use it

Narcan® saves lives. Be sure to keep naloxone next to you while you use so it can be easily used if needed. Make sure that those around you know where your naloxone is and how to use it.

Get Narcan®


Call 9-1-1

In case of overdose, call 911 and help save a life. Even if naloxone is given, it is important to call for emergency medical services. Naloxone does not stay in your body as long as opioids, so you could overdose again.

Vermont's Good Samaritan Law provides some protection for people who have overdosed and those who call 911 in case of an overdose emergency.

Call 9-1-1

Answers to your overdose questions
What is an overdose?

An overdose happens when too much of a drug enters your body, making it difficult for your body to process or clear out the drug. Overdoses from different drugs have different symptoms. 

Opioid overdoses impact the ability to breathe. When opioids enter the body, they travel to the part of the brain responsible for telling the body to breathe. By sitting on those particular brain receptors, the opioid slows someone’s breathing. When too many of those brain receptors are covered in opioids, a person will not be breathing enough, or stop breathing completely. 

What are the signs of an overdose?

There are a few signs to look for when you think someone is experiencing an overdose:

  • They are unconscious or not waking up
  • They don’t respond when you shout
  • They don't respond when you rub your knuckles on their breastbone or between their upper lip and nose
  • They are not breathing normally
  • They are breathing very slowly or not breathing at all
  • They are making snoring, choking or gurgling sounds

Signs of an overdose

What should you do if someone is experiencing an overdose?
  1. Check for signs of an opioid overdose
  2. Call 911
  3. Give naloxone – find out where you can get Naloxone
  4. Start rescue breathing and chest compressions – learn how
  5. Stay with the person until they go to the hospital. Someone who was given naloxone may be at risk for another overdose.

Keep this information with you by downloading this overdose card

How to administer Narcan®

How to administer rescue breathing

How can xylazine mixed with opioids increase risk of overdose death?

Xylazine, a sedative used in veterinary medicine for large animals like horses and cows, is not approved for human use, but it has been increasingly found in fatal opioid overdoses.

When mixed with opioids xylazine can affect the respiratory system, making the symptoms of an opioid overdose much worse by slowing down your breathing much faster than with just opioids alone. 

Narcan® (naloxone), a medicine that can reverse an overdose, may not be as effective when xylazine is present. This can mean a higher risk of death. 

Where can you find other helpful resources?


VT Helplink is a free and confidential alcohol and drug support and referral service. This service can help you prevent opioid overdose by giving you information on where you can get Naloxone.
Visit VTHelplink.org or call 802-565-LINK (or toll-free 833-565-LINK). 

Syringe service programs are free and anonymous. They provide syringes, supplies and overdose prevention resources. These programs are proven to be effective in not only reducing overdose, but also reducing transmission of other illnesses. Find a syringe service program near you.

Stigma that surrounds addiction and the people who struggle with substance use can lead to people not seeking the help they need. Greater awareness of addiction as a disease, increased understanding of treatment and recovery and growing empathy for those who struggle can reduce this stigma and help people find the resources they need. Visit EndAddictionStigmaVT.com to learn more.

Recovery is possible. Recovery centers across Vermont provide information and support to people in recovery from substance use disorder, including access to free naloxone (Narcan®) and fentanyl test strips. Find a recovery center near you.

Contact Us
Substance Use Programs (DSU)

Vermont Department of Health
280 State Drive 
Waterbury, VT 05671-8340