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  • 12.20.16

With This New App, Rideshare Drivers Could Volunteer To Help Save Overdose Victims

OD Help wants to find the fastest way to get anti-overdose drugs to potential victims–and often times a driver is closer than the nearest ambulance.

When someone overdoses on heroin or prescription opioids like Vicodin, a drug called naloxone can save their life; it snaps them out of their high almost instantly. But it has to be administered quickly, and the drug often doesn’t make it to victims in time; in 2015, 91 Americans died from opioid overdoses every day.

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A new prototype app is based on the idea that Uber drivers–and other rideshare drivers–could help. If an ambulance can’t reach someone quickly enough, a driver between rides might be five minutes away.

If a friend or family member has naloxone on hand, the app, called OD Help, is designed to walk them through the steps to administer it. If not, they can push a button to get help, which automatically notifies every rideshare driver or other volunteers with the drug nearby, along with local emergency services.

“In some instances, it does take too long for an emergency responder to arrive at the victim’s home,” says Ashley Sundquist from PwrdBy, a startup developer that focuses on health and designed the app. “With ridesharing and crowdsourced driving apps, we saw that as a faster opportunity to get victims the help they need. Especially when drivers have downtime.”

Drivers–who would all be vetted before participating–could confirm that they can help if they’re nearby, and then wait for an ambulance to arrive.

Since many overdoses also happen when the victim is alone, the app is also designed to pair with a wearable that measures breathing patterns. If breathing slows or stops, the app tries to wake the victim up with a loud alarm–and if that doesn’t work, it notifies a list of people that can help.

The app also includes resources so addicts can get help before an overdose happens.

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OD Help won the FDA’s recent Naloxone App Competition, a contest looking for new mobile solutions to better distribute the drug. The prize was $40,000, and the startup is currently looking for grants to help finish production.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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