In response to America’s opioid crisis, public health departments and community organizations across the country have started to train opioid users to reverse overdoses in other users with the opioid-blocker naloxone. The most frequent and public opioid users may be the best available candidates for naloxone training, according to a new study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The scientists interviewed 450 Baltimore drug users — the vast majority with histories of opioid abuse — and found that users who had witnessed more drug overdoses tended to be those who engaged in riskier drug use and used drugs in more places.
“A user can’t administer naloxone to himself when he’s overdosing, so from a public health standpoint we need to figure out which users are most likely to witness other users’ overdoses and thus be in position to revive them,” says senior author Dr. Carl A. Latkin, professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s department of health, behavior and society. “Our results indicate that the likeliest overdose witnesses are the heavier users who use in a wider range of settings.”