Can we prevent drug related deaths by training opioid users to recognise and manage overdoses?

R Gaston, David Best, V Manning, Edward Day

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    44 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Naloxone has been evidenced widely as a means of reducing mortality resulting from opiate overdose, yet its distribution to drug users remains limited. However, it is drug users who are most likely to be available to administer naloxone at the scene and who have been shown to be willing and motivated to deliver this intervention. The current study builds on a national training evaluation in England by assessing 6-month outcome data collected primarily in one of the participating centres. Methods: Seventy patients with opioid dependence syndrome were trained in the recognition and management of overdoses in Birmingham (n = 66) and London (n = 4), and followed up six months after receiving naloxone. After successful completion of the training, participants received a supply of 400 micrograms of naloxone (in the form of a preloaded syringe) to take home. The study focused on whether participating users still had their naloxone, whether they retained the information, whether they had witnessed an overdose and whether they had naloxone available and were still willing to use it in the event of overdose. Results & Discussion: The results were mixed - although the majority of drug users had retained the naloxone prescribed to them, and retention of knowledge was very strong in relation to overdose recognition and intervention, most participants did not carry the naloxone with them consistently and consequently it was generally not available if they witnessed an overdose. The paper discusses the reasons for the reluctance to carry naloxone and potential opportunities for how this might be overcome. Future issues around training and support around peer dissemination are also addressed. Conclusion: Our findings confirm that training of drug users constitutes a valuable resource in the management of opiate overdoses and growth of peer interventions that may not otherwise be recognised or addressed. Obstacles have been identified at individual (transportability, stigma) and at a systems level (police involvement, prescription laws). Training individuals does not seem to be sufficient for these programmes to succeed and a coherent implementation model is necessary.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)26-
    JournalHarm Reduction Journal
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


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