Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research

Overdose prevention for injection drug users: Lessons learned from naloxone training and distribution programs in New York City

Tinka Markham Piper1, Sasha Rudenstine1, Sharon Stancliff2, Susan Sherman3, Vijay Nandi1, Allan Clear2 and Sandro Galea4*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies, New York Academy of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA

2 Harm Reduction Coalition, New York, NY 10001, USA

3 Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore MD 21205, USA

4 Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Harm Reduction Journal 2007, 4:3  doi:10.1186/1477-7517-4-3

Published: 25 January 2007



Fatal heroin overdose is a significant cause of mortality for injection drug users (IDUs). Many of these deaths are preventable because opiate overdoses can be quickly and safely reversed through the injection of Naloxone [brand name Narcan], a prescription drug used to revive persons who have overdosed on heroin or other opioids. Currently, in several cities in the United States, drug users are being trained in naloxone administration and given naloxone for immediate and successful reversals of opiate overdoses. There has been very little formal description of the challenges faced in the development and implementation of large-scale IDU naloxone administration training and distribution programs and the lessons learned during this process.


During a one year period, over 1,000 participants were trained in SKOOP (Skills and Knowledge on Opiate Prevention) and received a prescription for naloxone by a medical doctor on site at a syringe exchange program (SEP) in New York City. Participants in SKOOP were over the age of 18, current participants of SEPs, and current or former drug users. We present details about program design and lessons learned during the development and implementation of SKOOP. Lessons learned described in the manuscript are collectively articulated by the evaluators and implementers of the project.


There were six primary challenges and lessons learned in developing, implementing, and evaluating SKOOP. These include a) political climate surrounding naloxone distribution; b) extant prescription drug laws; c) initial low levels of recruitment into the program; d) development of participant appropriate training methodology; e) challenges in the design of a suitable formal evaluation; and f) evolution of program response to naloxone.


Other naloxone distribution programs may anticipate similar challenges to SKOOP and we identify mechanisms to address them. Strategies include being flexible in program planning and implementation, developing evaluation instruments for feasibility and simplicity, and responding to and incorporating feedback from participants.