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Naloxone education & distribution programs

Health Factors: Alcohol & Drug Use
Decision Makers: Community Members Local Government State Government Federal Government Nonprofit Leaders Public Health Professionals & Advocates
Evidence Rating: Some Evidence
Population Reach: 1-9% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Naloxone is a prescription medication that reverses overdoses caused by opioids such as heroin, Vicodin, and OxyContin; it not a controlled substance and does not have potential for abuse (NPHL 2016, SAMSHA-Overdose). As of January 2017, 47 states and Washington, DC have expanded access to naloxone through legislation that permits prescriptions to people who are likely to encounter someone who might overdose (i.e., third party prescription) or standing orders by health care providers (NCSL-Drug overdose). States and communities can further expand access to naloxone through education, training, and distribution programs that reach drug users and their families and friends (TFAH-Levi 2013, NPHL 2016) and efforts to ensure that all first responders, including EMTs, firefighters, and law enforcement officers, are trained and authorized to administer naloxone (Davis 2014b, NPHL 2014b).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased knowledge of appropriate overdose response
Reduced overdose deaths
Increased self-confidence

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution programs increase knowledge of appropriate overdose response among participating opioid users and others likely to encounter an overdose situation (Clark 2014, Giglio 2015, Lewis 2016, Ashrafioun 2016, Lott 2016). Naloxone distribution through such programs is associated with reduced overdose deaths (Giglio 2015, Walley 2013) and appears to increase participants’ confidence in their ability to respond effectively to overdose situations (Ashrafioun 2016, Wagner 2016, Strang 2008). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Communities that implement programs to train potential bystanders (e.g., social service staff, opioid users and their family and friends) to identify an opioid overdose and respond with naloxone appear to reduce opioid overdose death rates more than communities that do not implement such programs (Walley 2013).

Family and friends of opioid users have greater knowledge of opioid overdose and ability to respond appropriately after receiving training in naloxone administration than peers who learn about opioid overdose and naloxone via an information booklet (Williams 2014). Current or former opioid users who have received training in overdose response appear to identify overdose and recognize conditions when naloxone is appropriate as accurately as medical experts (Green 2008). Some studies suggest that opioid users who have participated in only a brief 5-10 minute training or learned naloxone administration through social networks can respond appropriately to an overdose (Doe-Simkins 2014, Behar 2014).

Training first responders such as police, firefighters, and EMTs to administer naloxone may reduce time to overdose rescue, possibly decreasing overdose-related injury and death (Davis 2014c). Law enforcement officers who participate in naloxone administration and overdose training report increases in knowledge and confidence in managing opioid overdose emergencies after program completion (Wagner 2016).


United States

In 2014, 644 local opioid overdose prevention programs in 30 states and Washington, DC provided community members with naloxone kits and training in proper use (CDC MMWR-Naloxone 2015). Many states provide civil and criminal immunity for both prescribers and administrators (LawAtlas-Naloxone, Davis 2015).

In November 2015, a nasal spray method of administering naloxone was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the previously-approved injection method (US FDA-Naloxone 2015). As of January 2017, Kaléo, a pharmaceutical company, provides naloxone auto-injectors free of charge to qualifying non-profit organizations through their Product Donation Grants Program (Kaleo-Naloxone).


The Madison-Dane County Safe Community program offered overdose education and naloxone distribution trainings to the city of Madison Police Department in 2014 and has expanded training to the public (NSC-Dane County 2015). As of 2015, Wisconsin allows standing order prescriptions and third-party prescriptions of naloxone, and grants prescribers and lay administrators immunity from criminal prosecution and civil liability when prescribing, dispensing, distributing, or administrating naloxone (LawAtlas-Naloxone). 

Implementation Resources

HRC-Overdose - Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC). Overdose prevention. Accessed on February 27, 2017
NIDA-Naloxone - National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Naloxone. Accessed on February 27, 2017
NSC-Naloxone - National Safety Council (NSC). What's working in the prescription painkiller epidemic: Tackling prescription drug misuse. Accessed on February 20, 2017
Project DAWN - Project Dawn (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone). Ohio Department of Health. 2017. Accessed on February 20, 2017
SAMSHA-Overdose - Opioid Overdose Toolkit – Updated 2016. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). 2016. Accessed on February 20, 2017
US DOJ BJA-Naloxone - US Department of Justice (US DOJ), Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). National Training and Technical Assistance Center. Law Enforcement Naloxone Toolkit. Accessed on March 1, 2017

Citations - Description

Davis 2014b* - Davis CS, Southwell JK, Niehaus VR, Walley AY, Dailey MW. Emergency medical services naloxone access: A national systematic legal review. Academic Emergency Medicine. 2014;21(10):1173-1177. Accessed on February 20, 2017
NCSL-Drug overdose - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Drug overdose immunity and Good Samaritan laws. Accessed on February 27, 2017
NPHL 2014b - Network for Public Health Law Research (NPHL). Legal interventions to reduce overdose mortality: Emergency medical services naloxone. 2014. Accessed on February 20, 2017
NPHL 2016 - Legal interventions to reduce overdose mortality: naloxone access and overdose Good Samaritan laws. Network for Public Health Law (NPHL). 2016. Accessed on March 3, 2017
SAMSHA-Overdose - Opioid Overdose Toolkit – Updated 2016. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). 2016. Accessed on February 20, 2017
TFAH-Levi 2013 - Levi J, Segal LM, Miller AF. Prescription drug abuse: strategies to stop the epidemic. Trust for America’s Health (TFAH). 2013. Accessed on March 9, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Ashrafioun 2016* - Ashrafioun L, Gamble S, Herrmann M, Baciewicz G. Evaluation of knowledge and confidence following opioid overdose prevention training: A comparison of types of training participants and naloxone administration methods. Substance Abuse. 2016;37(1):76-81. Accessed on February 27, 2017
Behar 2014* - Behar E, Santos GM, Wheeler E, Rowe C, Coffin PO. Brief overdose education is sufficient for naloxone distribution to opioid users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2014;148:209-212. Accessed on February 20, 2017
Clark 2014 - Clark AK, Wilder CM, Winstanley EL. A systematic review of community opioid overdose prevention and naloxone distribution programs. Journal of Addiction Medicine. 2014;8(3):153-163. Accessed on February 20, 2017
Davis 2014c* - Davis CS, Ruiz S, Glynn P, Picariello G, Walley AY. Expanded access to naloxone among firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians in Massachusetts. American Journal of Public Health. 2014;104(8):e7-e9. Accessed on March 1, 2017
Doe-Simkins 2014 - Doe-Simkins M, Quinn E, Xuan Z, et al. Overdose rescues by trained and untrained participants and change in opioid use among substance-using participants in overdose education and naloxone distribution programs: A retrospective cohort study. BMC Public Health. 2014;14:297. Accessed on February 20, 2017
Giglio 2015 - Giglio RE, Li G, DiMaggio CJ. Effectiveness of bystander naloxone administration and overdose education programs: A meta-analysis. Injury Epidemiology. 2015;2(10):1-9. Accessed on February 20, 2017
Green 2008* - Green TC, Heimer R, Grau LE. Distinguishing signs of opioid overdose and indication for naloxone: An evaluation of six overdose training and naloxone distribution programs in the United States. Addiction. 2008;103(6):979–89. Accessed on February 20, 2017
Lewis 2016* - Lewis DA, Park JN, Vail L, Sine M, Welsh C, Sherman SG. Evaluation of the overdose education and naloxone distribution program of the Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition. American Journal of Public Health. 2016;106(7):1243-1246. Accessed on February 27, 2017
Lott 2016 - Lott DC, Rhodes J. Opioid overdose and naloxone education in a substance use disorder treatment program. The American Journal on Addictions. 2016;25(3):221-226. Accessed on February 27, 2017
Strang 2008* - Strang J, Manning V, Mayet S, et al. Overdose training and take-home naloxone for opiate users: Prospective cohort study of impact on knowledge and attitudes and subsequent management of overdoses. Addiction. 2008;103(10):1648–57. Accessed on February 20, 2017
Wagner 2016* - Wagner KD, Bovet LJ, Haynes B, Joshua A, Davidson PJ. Training law enforcement to respond to opioid overdose with naloxone: Impact on knowledge, attitudes, and interactions with community members. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2016;165:22-28. Accessed on February 27, 2017
Walley 2013* - Walley AY, Xuan Z, Hackman HH, et al. Opioid overdose rates and implementation of overdose education and nasal naloxone distribution in Massachusetts: Interrupted time series analysis. BMJ. 2013;346:f174. Accessed on February 20, 2017
Williams 2014* - Williams AV, Marsden J, Strang J. Training family members to manage heroin overdose and administer naloxone: Randomized trial of effects on knowledge and attitudes. Addiction. 2014;109(2):250-259. Accessed on February 20, 2017

Citations - Implementation

CDC MMWR-Naloxone 2015 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioid overdose prevention programs providing naloxone to laypersons: United States, 2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2015;64:631-635. Accessed on February 20, 2017
Davis 2015* - Davis CS, Carr D. Legal changes to increase access to naloxone for opioid overdose reversal in the United States. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2015;157:112-120. Accessed on February 20, 2017
Kaleo-Naloxone - Kaléo. Kaléo cares: Product donation grants, Evzio (Naloxone HCl injection) Auto-injector. Accessed on February 28, 2017
LawAtlas-Naloxone - Law Atlas. Naloxone overdose prevention laws map. Accessed on February 20, 2017
NSC-Dane County 2015 - Safe Communities America. Madison-Dane County, Wisconsin: A coordinated response to stop the drug overdose epidemic. An NSC safe community in action. National Safety Council (NSC). Accessed on February 20, 2017
US FDA-Naloxone 2015 - US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA). FDA moves quickly to approve easy-to-use nasal spray (Naloxone) to treat opioid overdose. 2015. Accessed on February 28, 2017

Page Last Updated

February 24, 2017

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