Brief overdose education is sufficient for naloxone distribution to opioid users

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 Mar 1;148:209-12. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.12.009. Epub 2014 Dec 19.


Background: While drug users are frequently equipped with naloxone for lay opioid overdose reversal, the amount of education needed to ensure knowledge of indications and administration is unknown.

Methods: We administered four instruments, assessing comfort and knowledge around opioid overdose and naloxone administration, to opioid users receiving naloxone for the first time (N=60) and upon returning for a refill (N=54) at community distribution programs. Participants completed the instruments prior to receiving naloxone; first-time recipients repeated the instruments immediately after the standardized 5-10min education.

Results: Comfort with recognition of, response to, and administration of naloxone for an overdose event significantly increased after brief education among first-time recipients (p<0.05). Knowledge of appropriate responses to opioid overdose was high across all assessments; 96% of participants could identify at least one acceptable action to assess and one acceptable action to care for an opioid overdose. Facility with naloxone administration was high across all assessments and significantly increased for intranasal administration after education for first-time recipients (p<0.001). First-time recipients (before and after education) and refillers demonstrated a high level of knowledge on the Brief Overdose Recognition and Response Assessment, correctly identifying a mean of 13.7 out of 16 overdose scenarios.

Conclusions: Opioid users seeking naloxone in San Francisco have a high level of baseline knowledge around recognizing and responding to opioid overdose and those returning for refills retain that knowledge. Brief education is sufficient to improve comfort and facility in recognizing and managing overdose.

Keywords: Naloxone; Opioid overdose; Opioid safety; Overdose prevention; Syringe access program.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Drug Overdose / drug therapy
  • Drug Overdose / prevention & control*
  • Drug Users / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Naloxone / therapeutic use*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • San Francisco / epidemiology


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Naloxone