Description of Strategy
Naloxone is a prescription medication used to reverse the effects of overdoses of opioids including heroin, Vicodin, and OxyContin. Naloxone is not a controlled substance and does not have any known potential for abuse. The goal of overdose education and naloxone distribution programs are to increase the number of people who know how to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose and are trained to administer naloxone. Access to naloxone and public information campaigns about the use of naloxone increased substantially from 2010 to 2018. As of January 2018, 47 states and the District of Columbia have used legislation to expand access to naloxone that allows people likely to encounter opioid overdoses to obtain prescriptions for Naloxone.
Some critics argue that naloxone distribution programs will lead to an increase in risky opioid use. However, a Massachusetts study found opioid-related emergency room and hospital visits were not significantly different in communities with naloxone distribution programs than those without.
Discussion of Effectiveness
Prescription & Other Drugs
A systematic review by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, County Health Rankings (2017) found some evidence that opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution programs increased the knowledge of appropriate response to opioid overdoses by those most likely to encounter them. The review also found evidence that communities with naloxone distribution programs have lower overdose death rates than those without naloxone programs.
A study examined the effectiveness of a government-supported naloxone program in Norway (Madah-Amin, Clausen, & Lobmaier (2017). The program targeted clients outside of normal treatment using 20 sites. A total of 2,056 intranasal naloxone devices were distributed from July 2014 to December 2015. Clients were instructed how to correctly administer the naloxone spray devices when they first received them and also when they returned the devices for refills. There were 277 reports of successful reversals linked to the distribution program. The study authors concluded that the Norwegian program demonstrated that a government supported naloxone distribution and education program can successfully and quickly reach large numbers of an at-risk population.