Keep Calm and Carry Naloxone

by Shannon Frost Greenstein



Keep Calm and Carry Naloxone – Seen in a Window Display at 12th and Walnut Streets, Center City Philadelphia, 2019


When three young adults, three of your fellow high school alumni, three human beings under the age of 40, three people with three stories and three sets of interconnected lives, trauma rippling between partners and siblings and parents and friends in ever-increasing concentric circles, three Delco histories with whom you shared elementary school and senior prom and, later, Facebook celebrations for their hard-fought sobriety, when they all three overdose over the span of three days and you’re struggling to understand, the Internet can be a tool to process. 


Drug Overdose Deaths on the Rise in Delco – Headline, Delco Times: January 27, 2017


When you’re struggling to process losing someone with whom you shared formative years in a tiny Delaware County school district, losing someone three times over, when you’re filled with rage at pharmaceutical companies orchestrating opioid epidemics to boost profits, filled with a sense of futility and impotence at the senseless loss of life, the loss of lives that touched yours and fill childhood memories of Halloween parades and peer pressure and clarinet lessons, it might seem like no one understands.


Epidemic: Noun; An outbreak of disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time. Origin: Early 17th century, from the French epidemique. – Merriam Webster


When it seems like no one understands, and the tears start to fall because of digital comments about the depravity of drug addicts and their pitiful, pitiful willpower, the pitiful willpower of a girl, for example, a few months younger than you, whose sister was your sister’s best friend, who shared a womb with three siblings now in active mourning, when you can’t stop thinking about her at 6, and 16, you might not be able to avoid going through her social media accounts.


“I missed myself. I’m glad she’s coming back.” – Jen (Sept. 1982 – Feb. 2020),, January 1st, 2020.

When the memories start making you depressed, consumed with an invisible existential dread, the epigenetics of friend upon friend upon friend lost to opioid addiction, lost to a self-fulfilling prophesy foretold by for-profit insurance companies, when it seems like things are just getting worse and there is no way up or out, when it seems like there is no hope, sometimes it helps to focus on what can be done.

• Recognize the signs and symptoms of an opioid emergency or overdose.
• Take appropriate and decisive action.
• Appropriately administer  NARCAN® (naloxone) nasal spray.
• Promptly notify Emergency Medical Services.

- How to Use NARCAN® Training, Delaware Country Community College -


When there is so much pain in the world, when your hometown is bleeding, when the Garnet Valley Class Reunion mailings spreadsheet loses three invitee rows in three days, when you think back to the early nineties and wonder if you could have known then who it would be, who we would lose, a pall hanging over the heads of children like a Sword of Damocles, you will remember things suddenly that you didn’t notice the first time around.

“Addiction runs in our family...we have lost four people (this year).” - Samantha, quoted in “The Heroin Battle,” Delaware County News Network, June 2017.

When you want to shout to the rooftops that drug addiction is not a character flaw, that drug addicts are self-medicating to numb pain, that you can never see the history of someone’s trauma, when you remember stories about abusive parents and invalidating environments with the hindsight bias of adulthood, when you wish so hard that some people don’t have it so hard, when all of that happens and you’ve gone through the yearbook and you’ve paid your respects and crying has been cathartic and it’s time to move on...


The Garnet Valley Alumni Association is saddened to announce the passing of GV Class of 2001 alumni (sic) Jen…beloved daughter, sister, aunt, niece, and friend. –, February 2020.


…then what do you do?

Author Bio

Shannon Frost Greenstein resides in Philadelphia with her children, soulmate, and cats. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, a Contributing Editor for Barren Magazine, and a former Ph.D. candidate in Continental Philosophy. Shannon served as writer-in-residence for the Sundress Academy for the Arts and was selected as a NASA social media intern for an official launch from Cape Canaveral. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet TendencyX-R-A-Y Lit MagCabinet of HeedSpelk FictionEmerge Literary Journal, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @mrsgreenstein or her website: She comes up when you Google her.