Learn to Cope is a support group based in Massachusetts for family members of people who primarily use opioids. The goals of this group are to increase knowledge about overdoses, conduct prevention trainings, and provide naloxone rescue kits (OEN). The objective of this study was to describe the benefits and motivations of family members who receive OEN and specify the frequency of naloxone used during an overdose rescue.
OEN began in 2007 and soon became one of the first organizations to offer OEN training. OEN training lasts about 20 minutes and includes education on how to recognize and respond to an overdose. The program emphasizes the importance of involvement from family members and provides potential opportunities to save lives.
The cross-sectional study provided OEN training at eight different sites. Participants completed a survey at the end of the 20 minute training to assess experience with overdose and motivation to receive OEN.
Among the 126 individuals with complete survey data, 52% financially supported their loved one and 50% reported daily contact. Those who received the OEN training were more likely to be a parent, apply to court-mandated treatment, attend more meetings, and witness an overdose. 72% of trainees reported wanting to have a naloxone kit in the household, and 57% heard about the benefits from other Learn to Cope members.
Trainees reported a greater sense of security, improved confidence to handle an overdose, and a greater understanding of overdose prevention and management. 22% of participants did not want OEN due to believing the training was not necessary or that they would not use the kit. Thirty-seven participants reported they had witnessed an overdose, and five participants administered naloxone to a family member or stranger after being trained through Learn to Cope. Due to the use of the naloxone kit, 4 of 5 overdoses restored breathing and individuals were responsive until an ambulance arrived.
Policymakers should consider mobilizing family members as part of the response to the opioid overdose epidemic and make efforts to empower family members who might feel stigmatized and isolated. OEN programs at support groups should be considered a part of an overdose prevention public health strategy. Programs such as these have the potential to provide education which could lead in an increase in confidence, and reduce the likelihood of fatal opioid overdoses.
Bagley, S. M., Peterson, J., Cheng, D. M., Jose, C., Quinn, E., O’Connor, P. G., & Walley, A. Y. (2015). Overdose Education and Naloxone Rescue Kits for Family Members of Individuals Who Use Opioids: Characteristics, Motivations, and Naloxone Use. Substance abuse, 36(2), 149–154. doi:10.1080/08897077.2014.989352