Operation Naloxone: Overdose prevention service learning for student pharmacists

Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2018 Oct;10(10):1348-1353. doi: 10.1016/j.cptl.2018.07.010. Epub 2018 Jul 24.


Background and purpose: A service learning program for student pharmacists was developed to train other university students to respond effectively to opioid overdoses with naloxone. Assessments were analyzed to determine the effect of program participation on student pharmacists' overdose-related knowledge retention and harm reduction attitudes.

Educational activity and setting: Student pharmacists were invited to attend a 90-min train-the-trainer seminar to obtain foundational knowledge regarding opioid overdose risk, symptoms, and response. Attendees were eligible to participate in a series of 10 community outreach events to educate university students. These two-hour events included a 30-min team huddle, 60-min workshop, and 30-min team debrief. Student pharmacists were asked to complete a follow-up assessment to evaluate knowledge retention and harm reduction attitudes.

Findings and discussion: Responses from students who participated in community outreach events (intervention) were compared to those who only attended the train-the-trainer seminar (control). A total of 116 subjects attended a train-the-trainer seminar and 94 completed the follow-up assessment. Thirty-six subjects voluntarily participated in at least one community outreach event while 58 did not participate. The intervention group demonstrated superior knowledge retention compared to the control group (p < 0.001). Cumulative harm reduction attitudes did not differ between groups (p = 0.89). The intervention group exhibited more positive attitudes regarding naloxone access for individuals who use illicit opioids (p = 0.015).

Summary: The Operation Naloxone service learning program enabled student pharmacists to engage with their community while reinforcing overdose-related knowledge. Student pharmacists exhibited progressive attitudes regarding harm reduction interventions.

Keywords: Harm reduction; Naloxone; Opioids; Overdose prevention; Service learning.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Drug Overdose / drug therapy
  • Drug Overdose / prevention & control*
  • Education, Pharmacy / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Naloxone / therapeutic use
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Program Development / methods
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Students, Pharmacy / psychology*
  • Students, Pharmacy / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities / organization & administration
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Naloxone