Brief Training On Overdose Sufficient For Distribution Of Naloxone, Study Finds

Doctor Training On Overdose - PhysicianHealthProgram.comBrief educational sessions in the use of naloxone are capable of helping laypeople recognize and appropriately react to most of the telltale signs of an overdose, researchers have found.

Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily halt the drug actions of opioid substances and thereby reduce the risks for severe or fatal outcomes in cases of opioid overdose. However, effective use of this medication by non-professionals requires at least some training. In a study published in late 2014 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from four U.S. institutions examined the effectiveness of brief naloxone educational sessions in preparing laypeople to use the medication properly.

Opioid Overdose

When used in excessive amounts, opioid drugs and medications can trigger an overdose scenario by drastically slowing down the rate of nerve cell activity inside the brain and spinal cord (collectively referred to as the central nervous system).

Without proper signaling from the central nervous system, essential organs such as the lungs and heart can “forget” to perform their normal functions and stop working. This means that a person experiencing an opioid overdose can easily die from problems such as respiratory arrest (cessation of normal lung function) or cardiac arrest (cessation of normal heart function).

An overdose can affect any excessive consumer of opioid substances, including everyone from first-time users to people dealing with chronic cases of opioid use disorder (opioid addiction and/or non-dependent opioid abuse).

Most people associate incidents of opioid overdose with the consumption of heroin or other illegal opioid street drugs. However, in the U.S., cases of overdose related to the consumption of prescription opioids are substantially more likely to occur. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that every day, 46 Americans die after overdosing on an opioid medication normally used for pain relief or addiction treatment.

Naloxone And Overdose Treatment

Naloxone is an intranasal or injectable anti-opioid medication that temporarily shuts down the sites that give opioid substances access to the brain. When given to a person in the early stages of an overdose, this medication can help that person avoid experiencing severe, potentially lethal changes in lung and heart function.

Until relatively recently, only emergency personnel and other trained medical professionals had access to naloxone; unfortunately, this meant that many of the people who needed prompt treatment to avoid fatal overdoses did not receive that treatment.

In America, federal guidelines now allow non-professionals to administer the medication in cases of overdose. In keeping with these guidelines, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has widened access to naloxone by taking steps that include the approval of an auto-injected form of the medication that delivers pre-measured doses.

Effectiveness Of Brief Training On Naloxone

In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, two branches of the University of California and the Harm Reduction Coalition used a project involving 114 problematic opioid users to gauge the effectiveness of a brief training session that outlines the basic information needed to identify overdose symptoms and safely administer naloxone.

A little more than half (60) of these study participants received a training session lasting five to 10 minutes after receiving naloxone for the first time. The remainder received a training session after seeking a naloxone refill for future use. For both groups, the training included recognition of 16 potential overdose situations, as well as instruction in the steps required to properly use an intranasal form of the medication.

The researchers conducted a “before-and-after” assessment of the study participants’ overdose recognition skills and ability to properly administer intranasal naloxone. After completing this assessment, they concluded that brief training in overdose recognition improved the overdose recognition abilities of the vast majority of the study participants receiving naloxone for the first time.

In addition, the training substantially improved these individuals’ ability to administer intranasal doses of the medication to others. The researchers also concluded that those individuals seeking a naloxone refill had a firm ability to recognize most opioid overdose situations and use the medication properly.

The study’s authors characterize the increase in overdose- and naloxone-related knowledge among the new recipients of the medication as significant. They believe that short educational sessions are sufficient to produce a real-world benefit for non-professionals who need to administer naloxone in an overdose situation.

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