Opioid overdose prevention in a residential care setting: Naloxone education and distribution

Patricia Pade, Patrick Fehling, Sophie Collins, Laura Martin
Substance Abuse 2017, 38 (1): 113-117

BACKGROUND: Patients with opioid use disorders are at an increased risk for overdose death if they had a previous overdose, have co-occurring medical and psychiatric comorbidity, and are high-dose opioid users transitioning to relative abstinence or abstinence, i.e., those individuals discharging from drug treatment programs. Despite the success of opioid overdose prevention programs utilizing naloxone, residential substance abuse treatment centers often emphasize abstinence-based care for those suffering from addiction and do not adopt harm reduction approaches such as naloxone education and distribution. This performance improvement project reports the implementation of an opioid overdose prevention program provided to patients and their family members in a residential treatment setting.

METHODS: Opioid-dependent inpatients (N = 47) along with their family members received overdose prevention training consistent with guidelines established by the Harm Reduction Coalition. Patient family members were queried regarding their awareness of past opioid overdose by the patient. A pre- and post-training questionnaire based on a 5-point Likert scale assessing ability to recognize overdose, fear of overdose, comfort in assisting with overdose, perception of life-threatening nature of addiction, and the value of overdose management was administered. Pre and post scores for each Likert scale were analyzed using paired 2-tailed t tests.

RESULTS: Thirty-two percent of patient family members were aware that the patient had a prior overdose. Statistically significant improvements in the ability of patients and families to recognize an opioid overdose as well as in their comfort to assist with an overdose were demonstrated. The pre- and post-education responses were both notably high for perceived value in learning about overdose and prevention.

CONCLUSIONS: Implementation of opioid overdose prevention programs within residential treatment programs, sober living homes, and therapeutic communities would be well received and is strongly encouraged.

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