A new paper by CBHRS researchers Dr. Bridget Hanson and Becky Porter describes experiences of Alaskans using naloxone to prevent opioid overdose in their peers. Participants described naloxone as easy to use and effective in reversing overdose. They emphasized the need to have naloxone widely available in order to prevent overdose death.

woman assisting an unconscious man after accidentPreventing opioid overdose with peer-administered naloxone: Findings from a rural state, published in Harm Reduction Journal, is based on 18 interviews with people with a history of opioid misuse or heroin use who had administered naloxone to a peer.

“Through partnerships with community agencies who distribute naloxone, we were able to recruit individuals who had witnessed an overdose emergency and administered naloxone. There are a lot of people who have been in this situation and they were generally willing to speak to us to share their experiences,” said Becky Porter about her work coordinating and conducting interviews with key informants across Alaska.

Participants sought naloxone rescue kits because they perceived high risk of overdose. They described high satisfaction with naloxone training and felt prepared to administer naloxone during overdose incidents. Overwhelmingly, participants perceived naloxone to be effective and emphasized the need to make it widely available. Findings suggest that engagement in overdose prevention strategies other than naloxone differs by gender, with females more likely than males to use multiple different strategies. Participants described that overdose experiences do not have a lasting impact on drug use behaviors.

Findings support the feasibility of naloxone distribution to peer opioid and heroin users and provide recommendations for policy improvement, including effective and well-advertised Good Samaritan laws and timely connections to treatment for opioid use disorder.

Along with Hanson and Porter, authors on this paper are Dr. Amanda Zöld, former CBHRS graduate research assistant, and Dr. Heather Terhorst-Miller, former pre-doctoral intern affiliate researcher.

This paper is part of the evaluation of Alaska’s Project HOPE, a program within the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to educate Alaskans about opioid overdose and distribute opioid overdose rescue kits. See previous reports here. For more information about Project HOPE, visit the Project HOPE website.

This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) #1H79SP022117. These contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the SAMHSA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, or UAA-ISER.