Overdose prevention and naloxone prescription for opioid users in San Francisco

J Urban Health. 2010 Dec;87(6):931-41. doi: 10.1007/s11524-010-9495-8.


Opiate overdose is a significant cause of mortality among injection drug users (IDUs) in the United States (US). Opiate overdose can be reversed by administering naloxone, an opiate antagonist. Among IDUs, prevalence of witnessing overdose events is high, and the provision of take-home naloxone to IDUs can be an important intervention to reduce the number of overdose fatalities. The Drug Overdose Prevention and Education (DOPE) Project was the first naloxone prescription program (NPP) established in partnership with a county health department (San Francisco Department of Public Health), and is one of the longest running NPPs in the USA. From September 2003 to December 2009, 1,942 individuals were trained and prescribed naloxone through the DOPE Project, of whom 24% returned to receive a naloxone refill, and 11% reported using naloxone during an overdose event. Of 399 overdose events where naloxone was used, participants reported that 89% were reversed. In addition, 83% of participants who reported overdose reversal attributed the reversal to their administration of naloxone, and fewer than 1% reported serious adverse effects. Findings from the DOPE Project add to a growing body of research that suggests that IDUs at high risk of witnessing overdose events are willing to be trained on overdose response strategies and use take-home naloxone during overdose events to prevent deaths.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Drug Overdose / drug therapy
  • Drug Overdose / mortality
  • Drug Overdose / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Naloxone / therapeutic use*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • San Francisco
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Naloxone