Opioid Prevention Programs Could Reduce Deaths from Overdose

First Posted: Jun 03, 2014 01:14 PM EDT

The New England states have experienced a concerning opioid abuse problem amongst the region's residents. Multiple governors have called for improvements in drug addiction treatment, and a new study shows that such programs might work.

The call for the use of the drug naloxone - a heroin/opioid overdose reverse agent - is likely to reduce deaths related to such illicit drug use. Community opioid overdose prevention programs (OOPPs) incorporate the use of naloxone, which is now carried by law enforcement officials in some states.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine conducted a study that analyzed 19 published studies evaluating the effectiveness of OOPPs in terms of recognition, prevention, and risk factors for opioid overdoses. Fourteen of the studies analyzed featured follow-up data on over 9,000 people enrolled in an OOPP, of which half had experienced an overdose and 80% witnessed one.

"OOPP participation is associated with overdose reversals, increased knowledge and ability to respond appropriately in an overdose situation, and the ability of non-medical bystanders to safely administer naloxone," said Dr. Christine M. Wilder, lead author of the study, in a news release.

The research found that eleven of the OOPP studies reported a 100% survival rate when administering naloxone, and the others featured at least an 83% rate. The percentages were determined out of nearly 2,000 naloxone administrations. These findings provide great news for legislators, especially Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who declared a State of Emergency regarding the heroin/opioid problem and requested that the Public Health Council make naloxone more readily available back in March.

However, the researchers believe further studies must be conducted to ensure the strength of knowledge of overdose prevention and risk factors for those who are enrolled in OOPPs. Their findings are promising, but there is limited research and data on OOPPs and that's really the only way more can be determined about overdose prevention efforts. The authors hope to see and/or conduct studies to assess the true impact on overdose deaths and how OOPPs can be further integrated into current practice.

The study, "Development and Implementation of an Opioid Overdose Prevention Program Within a Preexisting Substance Use Disorders Treatment Center," was published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

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