High uptake of naloxone-based overdose prevention training among previously incarcerated syringe-exchange program participants

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 Sep 1;154:283-6. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.06.023. Epub 2015 Jun 24.


Background: Incarceration is common among people who inject drugs. Prior research has shown that incarceration is a marker of elevated risk for opioid overdose, suggesting that the criminal justice system may be an important, under-utilized venue for implementing overdose prevention strategies. To better understand the feasibility and acceptability of such strategies, we evaluated the utilization of naloxone-based overdose prevention training among people who inject drugs with and without a history of incarceration.

Methods: We surveyed clients who utilize a multi-site syringe exchange program (SEP) in 2 cities in the Midwestern United States. Participants completed an 88-item, computerized survey assessing history of incarceration, consequences associated with injection, injecting practices, and uptake of harm reduction strategies.

Results: Among 543 respondents who injected drugs in the prior 30 days, 243 (43%) reported prior incarceration. Comparing those with and without a history of incarceration, there were no significant differences with respect to age, gender, or race. Those who observed an overdose, experienced overdose, and received training to administer or have administered naloxone were more likely to report incarceration. Overall, 69% of previously incarcerated clients had been trained to administer naloxone.

Conclusion: People who inject drugs with a history of incarceration appear to have a higher risk of opioid overdose than those never incarcerated, and are more willing to utilize naloxone as an overdose prevention strategy. Naloxone training and distribution is an important component of comprehensive prevention services for persons with opioid use disorders. Expansion of services for persons leaving correctional facilities should be considered.

Keywords: Correctional facilities; Overdose; People who inject drugs; Risky health behaviors; Take-home naloxone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Criminals / education
  • Criminals / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Overdose / prevention & control*
  • Drug Users / education
  • Drug Users / statistics & numerical data*
  • Education / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Harm Reduction
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Midwestern United States
  • Naloxone / therapeutic use*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Needle-Exchange Programs*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Naloxone