HealthDay News — Many young adult nonmedical prescription opioid (PO) users are relatively uninformed about overdose awareness, avoidance, and response strategies, according to a study published online in The International Journal of Drug Policy.

David Frank, from City University of New York in New York City, and colleagues examined overdose knowledge and experience of nonmedical PO users. They conducted semi-structured interviews with 46 New York City young adults, aged 18 to 32 years, who reported using POs nonmedically within the past 30 days. In an analytic process informed by grounded theory, verbatim interview transcripts were coded for key themes.

The researchers found that participants were relatively uninformed about overdose awareness, avoidance, and response strategies, including naloxone use, despite having considerable experience with overdose (including overdose deaths), either personally or within opioid-using networks. Multiple pharmaceuticals (often in combination with alcohol) or a transition to heroin injection were typical of overdose experiences.

Participants did not self-identify as traditional heroin users, and were frequently not included in networks reached by traditional opioid safety/overdose prevention services. They were unlikely to use services for harm reduction, including syringe exchange programs.

“There is a pressing need to develop innovative outreach strategies and overdose prevention programs to better reach and serve young PO users and their network contacts,” conclude the authors.


Frank D, et al. Int J Drug Policy. 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.07.013