Awareness and access to naloxone necessary but not sufficient: Examining gaps in the naloxone cascade

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24 Scopus citations


Background: Despite promising findings of opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution (OEND) programs, overdose continues to be a major cause of mortality. The “cascade of care” is a tool for identifying steps involved in achieving optimal health outcomes. We applied the cascade concept to identify gaps in naloxone use. Methods: Data came from a cross-sectional survey of 353 individuals aged 18 and older who self-reported lifetime history of heroin use. Results: The sample was majority male (65%) and reported use of heroin (74%) and injection (57%) in the past 6 months. Ninety percent had ever witnessed an overdose and of these 59% were in the prior year. Awareness of naloxone (90%) was high. Of those aware, over two-thirds reported having ever received (e.g. access) (69%) or been trained to use naloxone (60%). Of those who had ever received naloxone (n = 218) over one-third reported possession never (36%) or rarely/sometimes carrying naloxone (38%), while 26% reported always carrying. Nearly half of those who had ever received naloxone reported ever use to reverse an opiate overdose (45%). Among individuals who had ever received naloxone, possession often/always compared to never was associated with being female (RRR = 2.88, 95%CI = 1.31–6.27) and ever used naloxone during an overdose (RRR = 4.68, 95%CI = 2.00–11.0). Conclusions: This study identifies that consistent possession is a gap in the naloxone cascade. Future research is needed to understand reasons for not always carrying naloxone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-97
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Cascade
  • Naloxone
  • Narcan
  • Opiate overdose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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