NYU Study: Little Knowledge But High Overdose Risk for Young Prescription Opiod Users

prescription opiods

 “We found that despite significant overdose experiences,nonmedical PO users were uninformed about overdose awareness, avoidance, and response strategies, especially the use of naloxone”. (Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, Ph.D.)


Psychcentral News reports that researchers from NYU interviewed subjects between the ages of 18 and 32 who had engaged in nonmedical prescription opiod (PO) use in the past 30 days about “their  knowledge of and experience with opioid safety/overdose prevention services and practices.”  They also asked participants what they knew about  naloxone, a specific opioid receptor antagonist used to reverse an opioid overdose. They reported that:

The lack of knowledge in this high risk group was disturbing. In most cases, when asked about their experience with overdose, participants described their use of folk methods, such as slapping the individual or placing them in a cold shower, to revive an opioid user who appeared to have experienced an overdose.”

The investigators also found that participants viewed PO use as quite distinct from  nonmedical PO use and heroin use–even if they had transitioned to the use of heroin.  In other words they saw others as “junkies” and stigmatized the use of medical and psychological services available to “junkies” and were unwilling to use them.

Most of the participants had attended some high school and half had attended some college, so the authors of the study strongly suggested that harm reduction education and the distribution of naxolone in these settings could enhance overdose prevention efforts.

Obviously medical and mental health professionals should educate parents and young adults about these issues as well.

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