Can the overdose videos I see on social media actually be helpful? I find them disturbing but my friends disagree.

A mom writes in that she recently viewed a video of two people seemingly overdosing at a local gas station. “I was extremely disturbed to see that no one was helping either person, and instead of helping, all of the bystanders seemed to be sharing the event on Facebook by recording it on their phones.” When she asked her friend, who posted the video, why she would share it, the response was that the video would be a warning to anyone who was thinking of trying drugs, and it might make others stop if they saw what could happen. Mom wants to know if that is helpful.

This is a huge issue for me, personally, so I’m happy to give you my thoughts. Few things upset me more than this. I worry that we are becoming so callous and desensitized to the issues in our world and the suffering of other humans that we can stand back and film someone at the most desperate point in their life and possibly even watch as their life ends. Would we do that in any other situation? Why do we think it’s appropriate to stigmatize a person who clearly is not able to give consent to be filmed? None of this is helpful. I’ve heard that sometimes the person filmed is given help because of the video. I say that’s a clear indication that we need to have help more readily available, not that we need to post more people overdosing.

We have learned from the D.A.R.E. program that you cannot scare someone into not misusing substances. Instead, we need to address the issues why a person would turn to drugs in the first place. Our children are seeing their friends and family members die at an alarming rate from overdose. If knowing they could die from an overdose would make them stop, they would all be sober by now. Shaming someone who is clearly struggling by filming them overdosing just adds to the stigma and is more likely to prevent someone from reaching out than to encourage them to get help. Don’t forget, those same people have families like you and me and possibly children who will never recover from seeing those images.

I encourage everyone to carry Narcan, the overdose reversal drug. It’s simple to use and often available for free through many community organizations. You can also go to for more information on how to obtain and use this miracle drug. A much better response to witnessing an overdose would be aiding the person until help arrives. We would all want that for our own children, I’m sure.

Finally, don’t forget that sharing these videos is what these awful videographers want. They are not filming in hopes that it will be helpful. They are intent on getting “likes” on social media at the expense of our loved ones. Fight back by reporting the content to Facebook and NOT sharing. It is only when we join in or stand by and do nothing that they win!

Stay strong,
Coach C.

Disclaimer: The above advice is not meant to be construed as medical or legal advice. If you need professional medical, psychological, or legal advice, please contact a doctor, lawyer, or medical center.

Maureen Cavanagh is a peer recovery coach and interventionist who works with families and loved ones supporting a person struggling with a substance use disorder on their own recovery. She is the founder of Magnolia New Beginnings and Magnolia Recovery and Consulting, and the author of If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Addiction and Recovery, published by Henry Holt/Macmillan, and NAADAC-approved FAST: Family-Focused Addiction Support Training. You can learn more about her at

Each new edition of MomPower will feature questions from you, our mamas, along with my replies, to help educate and guide you toward the answer that works for your family. If you’d like your concern featured, please send a brief question to with MomPower in the subject line. Reach out. You are not alone.

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