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New Report Illustrates Positive Impact of Take-Home Naloxone Programs

Harm Reduction Coalition Media Advisory

For Immediate Release: February 16, 2012
Contact: Eliza Wheeler (510) 444-6969

New Report Illustrates Positive Impact of Take-Home Naloxone Programs
Community Overdose Prevention Programs Save 10,000 Lives Since 1996 

NATIONWIDE –The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report today on Community-Based Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs Providing Naloxone. The opioid antagonist naloxone is routinely used in hospitals and by paramedics in the field to revive individuals who are suspected to be overdosing on opioids. Since 1996, community-based programs have been operating take-home naloxone programs that train individuals how to respond to overdoses and use naloxone. The report shows that in the last 15 years, the 188 local take-home naloxone programs reported 10,171 drug overdose reversals using naloxone, after having trained and provided naloxone to 53,032 people. There are currently take-home naloxone programs located in 15 US states and the District of Columbia.

From 1990 to 2008, drug overdose death rates increased three-fold. Opioids (including prescription painkillers and heroin) are major causes of drug overdose deaths.  Naloxone is the standard of care for treatment of potentially fatal respiratory depression caused by opioid overdose. In response to rising overdose rates among heroin users in the late 1990s, community-based programs began prescribing naloxone and training people who use opioids how to respond to an overdose. By October 2010, there were at least 188 local, community-based opioid overdose prevention programs providing naloxone to drug users, their family and friends.

“Thousands of fatal overdoses occur every year – but this report shows that we can reduce overdose deaths by giving members of the community the right information, training, and tools,” said Eliza Wheeler, report author and program manager at the Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC), which runs model overdose prevention programs in New York City and San Francisco. “On a local, state, and national level, it is time that take-home naloxone programs are recognized a highly effective way to prevent overdose deaths. Such initiatives should be adequately funded and steps must be taken to ensure that naloxone is affordable and accessible.”

Many states with high drug overdose death rates have no opioid overdose prevention programs that distribute naloxone. The authors hope that by highlighting the successes of the existing programs, more attention and resources can be allocated to this life-saving intervention. The report concludes that public health agencies should implement community-based opioid drug overdose prevention programs that train individuals on how and when to use naloxone, provide naloxone for use by trained individuals in the community, and assess the impact of these programs on the prevention of opioid overdose deaths.

To read full report, please go to: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk/mm6106.pdf

To search for local programs, please go to:  http://overdoseprevention.blogspot.com/p/od-prevention-program-locator.htm

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 Overdose Experts Available for Interview:
  • Eliza Wheeler, MPA, Drug Overdose Prevention and Education (DOPE) Project, Harm Reduction Coalition, Oakland CA

Email: wheeler@harmreduction.org Phone: 510-444-6969

Ms Wheeler is the author of this report, and the project manager for the take-home naloxone program in San Francisco, California. She has been working in programs that provide naloxone for a decade.

  • T. Stephen Jones, MD, T Stephen Jones Public Health Consulting Florence, MA.

Email: t.stephen.jones@gmail.com

Dr. Jones is a co-author of this report, a recognized leader in the prevention of HIV, viral hepatitis prevention, and drug overdose among injection drug users.  From 1990 to 2003, he was the CDC policy expert for these issues.

  • Peter J Davidson, PhD, University of California, San Diego CA.

Email: pdavidson@ucsd.edu

Dr Davidson is a co-author of this report and has been conducting research and harm-reduction based intervention development around heroin-related overdose, hepatitis C transmission, and sexually transmitted infections among people who inject drugs in Australia and the United States since 1997.

  • Kevin S. Irwin, MA, Tufts University, Medford MA

Email: Kevin.Irwin@tufts.edu

Mr. Irwin is a co-author of this report, and a current lecturer in the Community Health Program at Tufts University. Kevin has been widely published on issues of US health care policy, drug consumption and regulation, homelessness and housing, HIV/AIDS and structural health determinants and interventions.

  • Sharon Stancliff, MD, Harm Reduction Coalition, New York, NY

Email: Stancliff@harmreduction.org

Dr. Stancliff is the Medial Director at the Harm Reduction Coalition, and is a naloxone prescriber for the State of New York. Sharon is an expert on overdose prevention programs, and lectures widely on this topic.

  • Scott Burris, JD, Center for Health Law, Policy and Practice, Temple University Beasley School of Law

Email: burris@temple.edu

Scott Burris is an expert on the legal and policy issues around take-home naloxone programs.

  • Alexander Walley, MD, Medical Director, Massachusetts OEND Program and Boston University School of Medicine

Email: awalley@bu.edu

Dr. Walley is the Medical Director of the Massachusetts Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) pilot program and a physician at the Boston Medical Center. He provides medical oversight and prescribing authority for the statewide naloxone distribution program in Massachusetts.

  • Nabarun Dasgupta, MPH, Project Lazarus, Epidemiologist, North Carolina

Email: Nabarund@unc.edu

Nabarun Dasgupta is an epidemiologist that specializes in opioid related overdose and helped develop the Project Lazarus take-home naloxone program in Wilkes County, North Carolina.


The Harm Reduction Coalition is a national advocacy and capacity-building organization that promotes the health and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by drug use. HRC advances policies and programs that help people address the adverse effects of drug use including overdose, HIV, hepatitis C, addiction, and incarceration. HRC maintains offices in New York, NY; Oakland, CA; and Washington DC.  For more information about HRC, visit https://harmreduction.org/

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