Exploring the life-saving potential of naloxone: A systematic review and descriptive meta-analysis of take home naloxone (THN) programmes for opioid users

Int J Drug Policy. 2015 Dec;26(12):1183-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.09.011. Epub 2015 Oct 1.


Background: The epidemic of drug-related mortality continues to endure. The most common cause of death associated with drugs is overdose and opioids are consistently the substances most prominently involved. As well as efforts to control the availability of illicit drugs and increase engagement in treatment services, the use of naloxone for peer administration has increasingly been championed as a mechanism for addressing the DRD epidemic. Despite increasing adoption and use of take-home naloxone (THN) as a primary response to DRD internationally the evidence base remains limited.

Methods: A systematic review and descriptive meta-analysis of the international THN literature was undertaken to determine an effect size for THN programmes. For each study, a proportion of use (PoU) was calculated using the number of 'peer administered uses' and the 'total number of participant/clients' trained and supplied with naloxone with a specific focus on people who use drugs (PWUD). This was constrained to a three month period as the lowest common denominator. As a percentage this gives the three month rate of use (per 100 participants).

Results: From twenty-five identified THN evaluations, nine studies allowed a PoU to be determined. Overall, the model shows a range of 5.2-13.1 (point estimate 9.2) naloxone uses every three months for every 100 PWUD trained.

Conclusion: Our model estimates that around 9% of naloxone kits distributed are likely to be used for peer administration within the first three months of supply for every 100 PWUD trained. Future evaluations should directly compare different training structures to test relative effectiveness and use a series of fixed time periods (3, 6 and 12 months) to determine whether time since training affects rate of naloxone use.

Keywords: Drugs; Mortality; Opioid; Overdose; Take-home naloxone.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Overdose / drug therapy*
  • Harm Reduction
  • Humans
  • Naloxone / therapeutic use*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Peer Group*
  • Self Administration*


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Naloxone