Rescue kits reduce opioid overdose deaths

BOSTON U. (US) — The rate of opioid overdose continues to rise, but a new intervention effort can significantly reduce deaths, experts report.

In a study of communities in Massachusetts with high numbers of opioid overdose deaths, the approach—Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND)—was associated with a significant reduction in death rates.

“Opioid overdose is a major public health problem for which we have few proven solutions. This study provides observational evidence that OEND can have a population-level dose effect in reducing overdose death rates, where the greater the implementation, the greater the impact,” says Alexander Walley, an attending physician in general internal medicine at Boston Medical College and the study’s lead author.


“Together with a recent study, which demonstrated that OEND is highly cost effective, it appears that OEND is a promising, scalable and affordable tool to save lives from opioid overdose,” adds Walley, who also is an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

Opioids include substances such as heroin and prescription pain relievers, namely hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl.

Opioid-related overdose deaths have exceeded the number of motor vehicle deaths each year since 2005 in Massachusetts and are the leading cause of injury death in the commonwealth.

The intervention educates people at risk for overdose and potential bystanders on how to prevent, recognize, and respond to an overdose. It also equips these individuals with a naloxone rescue kit.

Naloxone, which may be administered by injection or by nasal spray, is a safe and effective antidote that reverses the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose.

Between 2006 and 2009, OEND programs organized, funded, and supported by Massachusetts Department of Public Health trained 2,912 potential bystanders who reported 327 rescues in 19 communities with a high prevalence of opioid overdose deaths.

After adjusting for community level factors, including the use of addiction treatment and doctor-shopping for prescription opioids, communities with low levels of OEND training had 27 percent lower opioid overdose death rates and communities with high levels of OEND training had 46 percent lower opioid overdose death rates compared to communities with no training.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded the study, which was published in the British Medical Journal.

Source: Boston University