Statement of purpose Though traditionally concentrated in urban areas, deaths due to drug overdose have increased to epidemic levels in rural areas, and opioids including prescription drugs and heroin play an important role nationwide. To our knowledge, no opioid overdose prevention programs (OOPPs) with take-home naloxone presently exist in several high-risk Appalachian states including West Virginia (WV). In partnership with substance abuse prevention community members, we sought to assess the feasibility of translating and implementing such an OOPP in WV.
Methods Local substance abuse prevention professionals screened, enrolled, and interviewed community members who endorsed prescription drug misuse in the previous 90 days. Interviews were conducted face-to-face in semi-private areas mutually agreed upon by the participant and interviewer. Participants were asked about drug overdoses they had witnessed or experienced, their knowledge of naloxone, their willingness to participate in an overdose prevention program, and socio-demographic characteristics.
Results Based on preliminary analyses of 170 participants, over half (n = 87) witnessed at least one drug overdose, and over a fifth (n = 36) experienced an overdose themselves. Though fewer than half ofparticipants (n = 79) reported hearing of Narcan® or naloxone, the majority were moderately or very interested in receiving a prescription for a rescue medication (n = 159) and/or participating in a prevention program (i.e. undergoing training) (n = 146).
Conclusions Significant numbers of community members misusing opioids have witnessed and/or experienced a drug overdose. Though less than half were aware of naloxone, most expressed a willingness to participate in a prevention program, suggesting that a fatal overdose prevention program with take-home naloxone is acceptable to potential program participants.
Significance and contributions Given these findings and the magnitude of the opioid epidemic in rural areas such as WV, fatal opioid overdose prevention with peer-distributed naloxone has the potential to significantly decrease fatal opioid overdose.
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