Impact of training for healthcare professionals on how to manage an opioid overdose with naloxone: Effective, but dissemination is challenging

Soraya Mayet, Victoria Manning, Anna Williams, Jessica Loaring, John Strang

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Opioid overdose has a high mortality, but is often reversible with appropriate overdose management and naloxone (opioid antagonist). Training in these skills has been successfully trialled internationally with opioid users themselves. Healthcare professionals working in substance misuse are in a prime position to deliver overdose prevention training to drug users and may themselves witness opioid overdoses. The best method of training dissemination has not been identified. The study assessed post-training change in clinician knowledge for managing an opioid overdose and administering naloxone, evaluated the 'cascade method' for disseminating training, and identified barriers to implementation. Methods: A repeated-measures design evaluated knowledge pre-and-post training. A sub-set of clinicians were interviewed to identify barriers to implementation. Clinicians from addiction services across England received training. Participants self-completed a structured questionnaire recording overdose knowledge, confidence and barriers to implementation. Results: One hundred clinicians were trained initially, who trained a further 119 clinicians (n = 219) and thereafter trained 239 drug users. The mean composite score for opioid overdose risk signs and actions to be taken was 18.3/26 (±3.8) which increased to 21.2/26 (±4.1) after training, demonstrating a significant improvement in knowledge (Z = 9.2, p<0.001). The proportion of clinicians willing to use naloxone in an opioid overdose rose from 77% to 99% after training. Barriers to implementing training were clinician time and confidence, service resources, client willingness and naloxone formulation. Conclusions: Training clinicians how to manage an opioid overdose and administer naloxone was effective. However the 'cascade method' was only modestly successful for disseminating training to a large clinician workforce, with a range of clinician and service perceived obstacles. Drug policy changes and improvements to educational programmes for drug services would be important to ensure successful implementation of overdose training internationally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-15
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug policy
  • Implementation
  • Naloxone
  • Opioid overdose
  • Training

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