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Member Research and Reports

Temple: Researcher Finds That Social Relationships Could Be Key to Overdose Prevention in Rural Areas

As the opioid epidemic has widened, some of the most heavily impacted areas have been in rural Appalachia, a region of the country stretching from parts of New York to northern Alabama and Georgia. Opioid use in this region has grown disproportionately, presenting a potentially overwhelming public health challenge in rural areas, where facilities offering treatment for substance use disorders and mental health may be few and far between.

Dr. Abby Rudolph, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Temple University College of Public Health, has begun to explore how the epidemiological approach used to address human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) could be applied to understand the opioid crisis and prevent future fatalities in rural settings. Her new study recently was published in the Journal of Urban Health.

Her analysis, done in conjunction with researchers from the University of Kentucky, focuses on identifying individuals in an affected community who might be best positioned to intervene in life-threatening situations. The paper aimed to identify persons who use drugs who are more likely to witness an overdose in the future. Training these individuals to administer life-saving naloxone and rescue breathing to overdose victims could prevent fatal overdoses. These well-connected peers also can train others to be ready to respond.

“Most overdose prevention programs target people who are likely to experience an overdose themselves, but you can’t give yourself naloxone,” Dr. Rudolph says. “By capitalizing on social relationships and using peer-based trainings to increase the number of people who are trained in overdose prevention, we can ensure that more people feel able to respond in an emergency.”

Read more about the study.

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