Overdose risk perceptions and experience of overdose among heroin users in Cork, Ireland. Preliminary results from a pilot overdose prevention study

John Aidan Horan, Conor Deasy, Kieran Henry, Declan O’Brien, Marie Claire Van Hout

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Background. Opioid overdose is the primary cause of death among injecting drug users (IDU). Overdose is generally not sudden, occurs over one to three hours, and often in the presence of bystanders. This presents a unique window of opportunity to intervene. Aim. Successful overdose prevention training includes appropriate clinical and non-clinical responses. The study aimed to investigate Irish IDU experience of overdose, and need for education and resuscitation skills programming. We report on pilot findings. Methods. Phase One assessed service user experience of overdose, substances used, setting for overdose, and awareness of appropriate non-clinical responses (n=52). Phase two implemented an educational intervention at two Cork addiction service sites. This involved assessing service user awareness of appropriate non-clinical methods to manage overdose and their interest in receiving resuscitation training (n=26). Phase three piloted a resuscitation skills training intervention for staff, family and IDU consisting of instruction on how to recognise and prevent overdose, appropriate response techniques; rescue breathing, and calling emergency services (n=26). Results. The findings illustrated the majority had experienced overdose, described the main substances involved, the settings, the responses employed, and the perceptions of risk. The need for education equipping IDU with overdose prevention and management skills was identified. Awareness of appropriate responses (correct emergency numbers, recovery and resuscitation skills) improved following the educational and skills training interventions. Conclusions. Continued efforts in Ireland to integrate culturally specific overdose prevention into agonist opioid treatment services, prison discharge, homeless primary health and needle and syringe exchange are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-26
Number of pages8
JournalHeroin Addiction and Related Clinical Problems
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardio pulmonary resuscitation training
  • Injecting drug user
  • Overdose prevention

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