"I felt like a superhero": The experience of responding to drug overdose among individuals trained in overdose prevention

Division of Global Public Health, Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, MC 0507, San Diego, CA 92093-0507, USA. Electronic address: .
The International journal on drug policy (Impact Factor: 2.54). 08/2013; 25(1). DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2013.07.003
Source: PubMed


Overdose prevention programs (OPPs) train people who inject drugs and other community members to prevent, recognise and respond to opioid overdose. However, little is known about the experience of taking up the role of an "overdose responder" for the participants.
We present findings from qualitative interviews with 30 participants from two OPPs in Los Angeles, CA, USA from 2010 to 2011 who had responded to at least one overdose since being trained in overdose prevention and response.
Being trained by an OPP and responding to overdoses had both positive and negative effects for trained "responders". Positive effects include an increased sense of control and confidence, feelings of heroism and pride, and a recognition and appreciation of one's expertise. Negative effects include a sense of burden, regret, fear, and anger, which sometimes led to cutting social ties, but might also be mitigated by the increased empowerment associated with the positive effects.
Findings suggest that becoming an overdose responder can involve taking up a new social role that has positive effects, but also confers some stress that may require additional support. OPPs should provide flexible opportunities for social support to individuals making the transition to this new and critical social role. Equipping individuals with the skills, technology, and support they need to respond to drug overdose has the potential to confer both individual and community-wide benefits.

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