The opioid overdose epidemic is plaguing the nightlife community, and End Overdose has set off on a mission to help spread awareness and education.
Whether it’s you, a friend, or one of your favorite artists, just about everyone you know has been impacted by the epidemic of opioid overdose. In the last year alone, approximately 80,000 opioid overdose-related deaths were reported in the United States. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the unfortunate infiltration of the dance music community in the form of fentanyl-laced substances taking the lives of our loved ones. Naturally, the community has felt those losses tremendously, grieving and carrying a feeling of helplessness with us. Now, the time has come to take action and prevent the loss of any more lives being lost.
One group of people spearheading that mission is a nonprofit organization, End Overdose. Based out of the Los Angeles area and growing every day, End Overdose makes it their mission to prevent overdose-related deaths through public education and free access and training with the life-saving medication Naloxone, often referred to as Narcan.
The End Overdose team has been training people online via their website since 2021, providing easy access to free Narcan at the end of the training, with just $8 shipping. Now, they are switching up their approach by entering the nightlife scene in full force and working closely with festivals, brands, college chapters, and artists, including HVDES and Lil Texas, in order to spread their message.
End Overdose is leading the fight against opioid overdose-related deaths in the dance music community and beyond. One way they do that is through their partnership with Insomniac Events, which promises that End Overdose will be present at all their events with free training and Narcan. This year, they also partnered with Walgreens to announce that Narcan is now available over-the-counter nationwide.
With such impressive accomplishments already, we caught up with the End Overdose team and find out what’s next in their mission. Continue reading below for our chat with Darcy Michero, Director of Events and Fundraising Programs for End Overdose.
Hi Darcy! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. We’re so excited to share the story of End Overdose with readers. Can you tell us how you first became involved in harm reduction?
Thank you. Yeah, I’m super excited to chat about all things End Overdose. So, it started with what I studied in college. I just graduated from UCLA with a degree in Psychological Biology, and I did a lot of studying on substance use disorders, everything from opioid use disorder to nicotine, tobacco, and stimulant use disorders. So I just dug deep into all of that.
I also started teaching organic chemistry with the TAs for my class just because I was like, so obsessed with the biology of how our brain works with drugs in them. And this kind of sent me into doing clinical research, so I have a deep background in clinical research and substance use disorders. So I just combine that with my passion for nightlife. I have also been going to raves and festivals since I was 19, and End Overdose is just the perfect intersection of those two passions.
How did that experience influence you to join End Overdose? Were there other influences along the way?
I just have such a passion and love for EDM specifically. And this community made it easy for me to just really care about everyone’s safety. As I’m sure you know, there’s just this culture of PLUR, and everyone cares about one another, and it was such an easy transition to bring overdose prevention and response education into this kind of community that I care so deeply about.
It started with my studies. I started Psychological Biology and I graduated with a BS, but I was also pre-med because I want to be a psychiatrist. So I went to my medical advisor and was like, “Hey, how do I get into the best medical school?” And he said, “Well, you’re doing a great job with your classes. You have a 4.0, but what you need to get into is working with the community, doing some volunteer work, and doing research. So I thought, “What is something that I really deeply care about and I’m already kind of plugged into?” Which was raving and festival life. So I searched for volunteer opportunities and just really saw this need for harm reduction in the space.
I began volunteering for End Overdose back in like 2020. Theo, the founder of End Overdose, just saw my experience in science and addiction research, plus my love for the community, and was like, “Hey, you want to take a stab at running our events?” I just took the leap and did it. So now I manage our events and fundraising, lots of partnerships with artists, as well as still doing substance use clinical research.
It’s comforting to hear that the medical community is normalizing more hands-on experience rather than just reading and studying, especially since these kinds of situations could play out differently in real life.
Totally. I wanted to get that grassroots experience of working with the community, and I did. I also worked in all medical spaces, like hospitals, the NICU, and the pediatric ICU. Eventually, I realized that my niche was in working with people with substance use disorders.
As a nonprofit organization, you provide free Narcan and training via your website and now in person at music festivals, concerts, and more. What are some other methods your team uses to further educate the public on recognizing and preventing opioid overdose?
Our main goal is to just really make Naloxone and all these resources available and accessible to everyone. So, that’s the bottom line. Like you said, we use our online platform, and we won’t be done with our work, until Naloxone is available to everyone, with the click of a button and cost-effective. So we use our online platform. We use social media, as well as going to festivals and working with people in these spaces where it’s really popular for large groups of young people to be together. But I do want to capitalize on our work on social media.
I honestly think that’s why we’re so successful as a non-profit at this point. Just because we’re utilizing resources like Instagram and TikTok and making fun and catchy videos with recognizable people and artists to make this really scary but important topic more engaging and fun. Therefore, we’re reaching a wider amount of people to make sure these resources are available.
My first experience with End Overdose was hearing about it online before it entered the nightlife space. Now, you’ve partnered with Insomniac Events and other companies to be present and provide live training at their events. What has that transition to in-person events been like for your team?
It’s honestly been a dream come true. So we started getting into nightlife locally here in LA, and it was really after Lil Peep’s unfortunate death that we started to work in this space. First, we worked with Emo Nite and Kreyshawn to create this community meeting and introduce the issue to a bigger group. This led us to eventually work in the underground scene with bands like Sextile. Since then, our presence in nightlife has grown. Especially in the EDM community, as you mentioned, with Insomniac. Before, it was just working in warehouses, sending a table and a team to give out resources and educate people on what’s available.
Metaphorically, we’re on a big stage working with Pasquale and Insomniac. Now, instead of managing two volunteers and handing out stuff to 200 people in a warehouse, we’re literally reaching maybe 50,000 people in one day. I’ll have a team of 60 depending on the festival, and it’s a lot to manage. But it’s just so amazing because we’re maximizing the number of people who can understand, who can learn this skill, and who can get these resources for free. So it’s just been amazing to get to expand our reach essentially.
End Overdose has not only started a very necessary conversation in the rave and nightlife scene but also brought their training and resources to colleges like Occidental College in Los Angeles. How do the needs and reception differ from music festivals to colleges?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I would say it’s a different population just because it’s college students. Not everyone in college goes to nightlife, but when we’re working at these festivals, it’s all people who love the music and partake in the nightlife. But the core thing in common is that it’s all young people. And the reason we really focus on this group of people is that overdose is the number one cause of death for people 18 to 45.
So we have a big focus on young people, and although there might be some small differences in exception, I would honestly say that there’s more in common than differences just because we are reaching these young people, teaching them to be able to identify and respond to an overdose. These people are honestly just grateful, and the acceptance of what we’re doing is overarchingly positive, and everyone is really on board, especially because just about everyone has been affected. There’s not one person who hasn’t had some sort of connection to an overdose, and I think everyone understands that this is a big need.
End Overdose also recently partnered with Walgreens to provide Narcan over-the-counter nationwide. That’s an amazing feat, by the way. Congratulations to your team on that. What changes do you hope to see happen in harm reduction with that partnership?
That was such an amazing partnership, and we were so proud of it. Narcan over-the-counter is a big deal. The accessibility to it prior was a big issue. You would have to get a prescription, which is expensive, and not many people will go in to get a prescription for Narcan. So, this is just a big win for harm reduction and overdose response. But our partnership was focused on the educational piece, and we worked hard with a whole board at Walgreens to make a video that was engaging and relatable and represented a big group of people to make it less scary.
The bottom line of our video was, “This is how you identify an overdose. This is how you respond, you must call 911.” However, we wanted to make it really seem like an essential thing that everyone should have in their first aid kit because it’s true. A lot of people don’t carry Narcan because they don’t interact with people who use drugs, or maybe they themselves don’t use drugs.
But at the end of the day, we partnered with Walgreens to make it known that this is something you should have in your first aid kit and carry on you or in your car at all times because an overdose can happen everywhere, and you never know when it’s going to happen. It could happen in a car or a restaurant, and we wanted to make sure people felt like this was a topic they could engage with in a non-scary way.
That’s amazing. How did the partnership come to be? Whose idea was it, and what was the process like?
So we knew Narcan over-the-counter was going to be released on September 7. We then got approached by some people from the communications department at Walgreens asking if we were interested in a potential partnership to make an over-the-counter Narcan awareness campaign to educate people on it. Because you can get Narcan on Amazon, right? But are people going to know how to use it? No. Or learn how to identify an overdose? Probably not.
So they approached us wanting to join forces in the education aspect, and we were so thrilled to be able to do that with them. We worked hard to make sure that it was a long enough video to give all the information but a short enough video to keep people engaged and understanding the core pieces of identifying an overdose, calling 911, and responding to an overdose.
As with many things that have been considered taboo in the past, I’m sure your team has faced some backlash for the work you do. How does your team handle that and continue moving forward?
Well, we’re dealing with a pretty serious and taboo topic: drug use and overdose. So of course, there are going to be people that have their opinions on it. It’s a very intense topic. There’s a lot of emotion and a lot of death and loss around it, and some people are going to react. However, I just want to highlight that regardless of what people may think, we do have a national epidemic. We have about 150 people dying per day in this country from opioid overdose, and that’s a lot. So that’s an undeniable fact that we have a national problem.
The best way my team combats that is that we look at the numbers and we look at our impact. We know that we’re doing something really good for this national epidemic and for the young population, and just reaffirming that education will help this problem. And those who don’t want to participate don’t have to. We’re neutral as an organization. We’re not forcing our ideas on anyone. We’re not a sober group, and we’re not a pro-drug group. We’re purely here to give neutral education to those who need and want it.
According to your website, End Overdose has trained 111,503 people, 96 organizations, and started nine college chapters. Are those numbers up to date?
For college chapters, we now have 31. Since we don’t do rolling applications, we have a one-time application time where everyone applies, and then we accept everyone.
Thanks for clearing that up! With already such impressive numbers, what are some goals your team has for the rest of this year?
In terms of chapters, a chapter in each state is the direction we’re headed in. Mainly because the colleges and the volunteers are essential to our operations and getting the knowledge out there. It’s important to have the manpower to occupy these spaces and give out the resources, so a chapter in each state is one goal.
We also just want to continue our work until every American has access to this lifesaving medication. So that means continuing to push our online training program, which is free. Then, we mail them a dose of Naloxone for free; the person just has to pay for shipping, usually just $8. So we want to continue the work. Making sure everyone has access, ease, and cost-effectiveness to get this life-saving medication because there’s no reason that people shouldn’t be able to have this information at their fingertips. So we like to provide it with a click of a button.
How does End Overdose plan to address the relationship between substance abuse and mental health?
I would say that’s a big theme in harm reduction, but as I said, we like to focus our work and narrow it down to be the most successful with our population, which is teaching this opioid overdose response education. But that being said, we also work with and recommend some mental health resources. For example, we have collaborated with the city of San Francisco and helped get some mental health resources out there at Portola Music Festival. We’ve also put some of the San Francisco city’s health department resources on our website.
That’s the degree to which we have been addressing mental health for now. The intersectionality with substance use disorders is definitely important, and we would like to expand on that. But for now, we’re just pinpointed laser-focused on getting the education that we focus on out to the population.
Lawmakers in the past have often been blinded by bias or fear of taboo conversations, but California lawmakers seem to be swaying in support lately, as we saw with California Senate Bill 367. How does End Overdose hope to move forward collaboratively with the support of lawmakers? Can we expect End Overdose to be more active in that space?
Absolutely. We’re always open to collaboration, and working with cities and public health departments is going to be an essential thing that we can do to get these resources out there. We do work with a lot of state governments and health departments to get Naloxone out there, and this is definitely something that is important for us – to make sure our education is getting to the right people and getting them the right resources as well.
You guys recently released a beautiful statement piece of jewelry with Rare Romance. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Yes! I essentially approached Rare Romance, which is a really cool jewelry brand. They have a really interesting look, and I felt like it was very similar to our branding image. The collaboration happened in January; we just released it at the end of last month, which was so exciting. We collaborated with the Rare Romance team on the necklace’s design and wanted to make sure that even down to the design was intentional.
It’s really a tribute necklace to the people that we’ve lost and just something to wear to remind us that overdose is real. At the end of the day, when people purchase it, they’re making a real impact with their dollar, and I think that’s amazing. I love doing collaborations like that because it’s so impactful, and people are buying something they love and also donating to End Overdose with their purchases.
What are some things we can expect from End Overdose in 2024 and beyond?
We want to continue working with our amazing partners like Insomniac, AEG, and Goldenvoice. We also want to continue being present at these big festivals and working with artists like HVDES, Lil Texas, SAYMYNAME, and other artists to get our name and our education out there, as well as our resources.
We also just hit our first anniversary with Insomniac at Escape. So, continuing into our second year of partnership is exciting. Just in that one year we’ve actually reached over 1.4 million people and trained over 50,000 just at these Insomniac events alone. I would like to double our numbers, if not triple by next year. We also want to continue making the impact we’re having, and we won’t stop until every single person is carrying Naloxone or at least has the option to if they would like to.
What are some ways that readers can help you accomplish that mission?
There are lots of ways that people can help with our mission. Number one is like the baseline. Everyone should take the time to get trained. We have a long-form training on our website, which is a bit more in-depth. It just goes over overdose identification response and how to administer Naloxone. You can do it online or by stopping by one of our booths at an event.
In-person, we do a bit of a more rapid training just because it makes more sense to do that in the event space. So it only takes like five minutes to learn the essential skills. I think at the baseline, everyone should be taking the five minutes out of their day and learning how to use Naloxone, then of course, carrying it on them. But taking it a step further, it would be amazing if everyone donated their time or volunteered we could do so much more. I’ve met a lot of people at these events that are like, “Put me in, I want to be part of this.”
Even just discussing it to destigmatize the conversation, carrying Narcan, and/or donating. We are a grassroots organization, at the end of the day, with no financial investors, and we cannot continue our work without donations and our fundraising efforts. So donations, volunteering, learning the knowledge, and supporting us are all I can ask for.