FRIDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Teaching people how to
recognize and respond to prescription painkiller overdoses could
significantly reduce the number of overdose deaths, a new study
Overdoses of these powerful opioid drugs are a major cause of
emergency hospital admissions and preventable deaths in many
countries. Opioids include hydrocodone (brand name Vicodin),
oxycodone (OxyContin and Percocet), morphine and codeine.
Since 2005, Massachusetts has had more opioid-related overdose
deaths than motor vehicle deaths, so the state introduced several
strategies to tackle the problem, including training drug users,
their families and friends, and potential bystanders to prevent,
recognize and respond to opioid overdoses.
The participants in the overdose education and naloxone
distribution (OEND) programs received instruction in how to
recognize signs of overdose, seek help, stay with victims and use
naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdose.
In the study, Alexander Walley, an assistant professor of
medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues
looked at data from 19 Massachusetts communities that had high
levels of opioid overdose and various levels of implementation of
OEND programs. Communities with OEND programs had a larger
reduction in opioid-related overdose deaths than those without the
The greater the enrollment in OEND programs in communities, the
greater the reduction in death rates, according to the study, which
was published online Jan. 31 in the journal
The findings provide evidence that the programs are an effective
way to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths, concluded the team of
researchers from the Boston Medical Center, the Boston University
Schools of Medicine and Public Health, and the Massachusetts
Department of Public Health.
From 1996 to 2010, more than 50,000 people were trained by OEND
programs in the United States, resulting in more than 10,000 opioid
overdose rescues, according to background information included in a
journal news release.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about