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Concept: Opioid overdose


The U.S. opioid epidemic is continuing, and drug overdose deaths nearly tripled during 1999-2014. Among 47,055 drug overdose deaths that occurred in 2014 in the United States, 28,647 (60.9%) involved an opioid (1). Illicit opioids are contributing to the increase in opioid overdose deaths (2,3). In an effort to target prevention strategies to address the rapidly changing epidemic, CDC examined overall drug overdose death rates during 2010-2015 and opioid overdose death rates during 2014-2015 by subcategories (natural/semisynthetic opioids, methadone, heroin, and synthetic opioids other than methadone).* Rates were stratified by demographics, region, and by 28 states with high quality reporting on death certificates of specific drugs involved in overdose deaths. During 2015, drug overdoses accounted for 52,404 U.S. deaths, including 33,091 (63.1%) that involved an opioid. There has been progress in preventing methadone deaths, and death rates declined by 9.1%. However, rates of deaths involving other opioids, specifically heroin and synthetic opioids other than methadone (likely driven primarily by illicitly manufactured fentanyl) (2,3), increased sharply overall and across many states. A multifaceted, collaborative public health and law enforcement approach is urgently needed. Response efforts include implementing the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain (4), improving access to and use of prescription drug monitoring programs, enhancing naloxone distribution and other harm reduction approaches, increasing opioid use disorder treatment capacity, improving linkage into treatment, and supporting law enforcement strategies to reduce the illicit opioid supply.

Concepts: United States, Drugs, Opioid, Morphine, Heroin, Naloxone, Drug overdose, Opioid overdose


From 2015 to 2016, opioid overdose deaths increased 27.7%, indicating a worsening of the opioid overdose epidemic and highlighting the importance of rapid data collection, analysis, and dissemination.

Concepts: Naloxone, Drug overdose, Opioid overdose, 2016


Opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts increased 150% from 2012 to 2015 (1). The proportion of opioid overdose deaths in the state involving fentanyl, a synthetic, short-acting opioid with 50-100 times the potency of morphine, increased from 32% during 2013-2014 to 74% in the first half of 2016 (1-3). In April 2015, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and CDC reported an increase in law enforcement fentanyl seizures in Massachusetts, much of which was believed to be illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) (4). To guide overdose prevention and response activities, in April 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner collaborated with CDC to investigate the characteristics of fentanyl overdose in three Massachusetts counties with high opioid overdose death rates. In these counties, medical examiner charts of opioid overdose decedents who died during October 1, 2014-March 31, 2015 were reviewed, and during April 2016, interviews were conducted with persons who used illicit opioids and witnessed or experienced an opioid overdose. Approximately two thirds of opioid overdose decedents tested positive for fentanyl on postmortem toxicology. Evidence for rapid progression of fentanyl overdose was common among both fatal and nonfatal overdoses. A majority of interview respondents reported successfully using multiple doses of naloxone, the antidote to opioid overdose, to reverse suspected fentanyl overdoses. Expanding and enhancing existing opioid overdose education and prevention programs to include fentanyl-specific messaging and practices could help public health authorities mitigate adverse effects associated with overdoses, especially in communities affected by IMF.

Concepts: Death, Opioid, Morphine, Heroin, Naloxone, Drug overdose, Opioid overdose, 2016


The opioid use and overdose crisis is persistent and dynamic. Opioid overdoses were initially driven in the 1990s and 2000s by the increasing availability and misuse of prescription opioids. More recently, opioid overdoses are increasing at alarming rates due to wider use of heroin, which in some places is mixed with fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives. Naloxone access for opioid overdose rescue is one of the US Department of Health and Human Services' three priority areas for responding to the opioid crisis. This article summarizes the known benefits of naloxone access and details unanswered questions about overdose education and naloxone rescue kits. Hopefully future research will address these knowledge gaps, improve the effectiveness of opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution programs, and unlock the full promise of naloxone rescue kits.

Concepts: Opioid, Morphine, Heroin, Naloxone, Opioids, Drug overdose, Opioid overdose


The objectives were to analyze the knowledge about overdose prevention, the use of naloxone, and the number of fatal overdoses after the implementation of Systematic Training in Overdose Prevention (STOOP) program. We conducted a quasi-experimental study, and held face-to-face interviews before (n = 725) and after (n = 722) implementation of systematic training in two different samples of people who injected opioids attending harm reduction centers. We asked participants to list the main causes of overdose and the main actions that should be taken when witnessing an overdose. We created two dependent variables, the number of (a) correct and (b) incorrect answers. The main independent variable was Study Group: Intervention Group (IG), Comparison Group (CG), Pre-Intervention Group With Sporadic Training in Overdose Prevention (PREIGS), or Pre-Intervention Group Without Training in Overdose Prevention (PREIGW). The relationship between the dependent and independent variables was assessed using a multivariate Poisson regression analysis. Finally, we conducted an interrupted time series analysis of monthly fatal overdoses before and after the implementation of systematic program during the period 2006-2015. Knowledge of overdose prevention increased after implementing systematic training program. Compared to the PREIGW, the IG gave more correct answers (IRR = 1.40;95%CI:1.33-1.47), and fewer incorrect answers (IRR = 0.33;95%CI:0.25-0.44). Forty percent of people who injected opioids who received a naloxone kit had used the kit in response to an overdose they witnessed. These courses increase knowledge of overdose prevention in people who use opioids, give them the necessary skills to use naloxone, and slightly diminish the number of fatal opioid overdoses in the city of Barcelona.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Opioid, Heroin, Naloxone, Time series, Poisson regression, Drug overdose, Opioid overdose


Prison inmates face a ten times increased risk of experiencing a fatal drug overdose during their first 2 weeks upon release than their non-incarcerated counterparts. Naloxone, the antidote to an opioid overdose, has been shown to be feasible and effective when administered by bystanders. Given the particular risk that newly released inmates face, it is vital to assess their knowledge about opioid overdoses, as well as the impact of brief overdose prevention training conducted inside prisons.

Concepts: Naloxone, Drug overdose, Opioid overdose


Naloxone administration is an important component of resuscitation attempts by emergency medical services (EMS) for opioid drug overdoses. However, EMS providers must first recognize the possibility of opioid overdose in clinical encounters. As part of a public health response to an outbreak of opioid overdoses in Rhode Island, we examined missed opportunities for naloxone administration and factors potentially influencing EMS providers' decision to administer naloxone. We reviewed medical examiner files on all individuals who died of an opioid-related drug overdose in Rhode Island from January 1, 2012 through March 31, 2014, underwent attempted resuscitation by EMS providers, and had records available to assess for naloxone administration. We evaluated whether these individuals received naloxone as part of their resuscitation efforts and compared patient and scene characteristics of those who received naloxone to those who did not receive naloxone via chi-square, t-test, and logistic regression analyses. One hundred and twenty-four individuals who underwent attempted EMS resuscitation died due to opioid overdose. Naloxone was administered during EMS resuscitation attempts in 82 (66.1%) of cases. Females were nearly three-fold as likely not to receive naloxone as males (OR 2.9; 95% CI 1.2-7.0; p-value 0.02). Additionally, patients without signs of potential drug abuse also had a greater than three-fold odds of not receiving naloxone (OR 3.3; 95% CI 1.2-9.2; p-value 0.02). Older individuals, particularly those over age 50, were more likely not to receive naloxone than victims younger than age 30 (OR 4.8; 95% CI 1.3-17.4; p-value 0.02). Women, older individuals, and those patients without clear signs of illicit drug abuse, were less likely to receive naloxone in EMS resuscitation attempts. Heightened clinical suspicion for opioid overdose is important given the recent increase in overdoses among patients due to prescription opioids.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Opioid, Heroin, Naloxone, Emergency medical services, Drug overdose, Opioid overdose, Benzodiazepine overdose


To reduce fatal drug overdoses, two approaches many states have followed is to pass laws expanding naloxone access and Good Samaritan protections for lay persons with high likelihood to respond to an opioid overdose. Most prior research has examined attitudes and knowledge among lay responders in large metropolitan areas who actively use illicit substances. The present study addresses current gaps in knowledge related to this issue through an analysis of data collected from a broader group of lay responders who received naloxone kits from 20 local health departments across Indiana.

Concepts: Drugs, Opioid, Naloxone, Barbiturate, Drug overdose, Opioid overdose, Benzodiazepine overdose


Effective community-based actions are urgently needed to combat the ongoing epidemic of opioid overdose. Community readiness (CR) has been linked to communities' support for collective action, which in turn has been associated with the success of community-wide prevention strategies and resulting behavior change. Our study, conducted in North Carolina, assessed the relationship between CR and two indices of opioid overdose. County-level data included a survey of health directors that assessed CR to address drug overdose prevention programs, surveillance measures of opioid overdose collected from death records and emergency departments, and two indicators of general health-related status. We found that counties' rates of CR were positively associated with their opioid-related mortality (but not morbidity) and that this relationship persisted when we controlled for health status. North Carolina counties with the highest opioid misuse problems appear to be the most prepared to respond to them.

Concepts: Naloxone, North Carolina, Drug overdose, Opioid overdose, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Objectives. We examined whether neighborhood social characteristics (income distribution and family fragmentation) and physical characteristics (clean sidewalks and dilapidated housing) were associated with the risk of fatalities caused by analgesic overdose. Methods. In a case-control study, we compared 447 unintentional analgesic opioid overdose fatalities (cases) with 3436 unintentional nonoverdose fatalities and 2530 heroin overdose fatalities (controls) occurring in 59 New York City neighborhoods between 2000 and 2006. Results. Analgesic overdose fatalities were less likely than nonoverdose unintentional fatalities to have occurred in higher-income neighborhoods (odds ratio [OR] = 0.82; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.70, 0.96) and more likely to have occurred in fragmented neighborhoods (OR = 1.35; 95% CI = 1.05, 1.72). They were more likely than heroin overdose fatalities to have occurred in higher-income (OR = 1.31; 95% CI = 1.12, 1.54) and less fragmented (OR = 0.71; 95% CI = 0.55, 0.92) neighborhoods. Conclusions. Analgesic overdose fatalities exhibit spatial patterns that are distinct from those of heroin and nonoverdose unintentional fatalities. Whereas analgesic fatalities typically occur in lower-income, more fragmented neighborhoods than nonoverdose fatalities, they tend to occur in higher-income, less unequal, and less fragmented neighborhoods than heroin fatalities. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print October 17, 2013: e1-e9. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301347).

Concepts: Epidemiology, Opioid, Morphine, Heroin, Naloxone, Methadone, Drug overdose, Opioid overdose