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Opioid Overdose and First Responders

Study Demonstrates Feasibility of Training Service Industry Employees to Deliver Intervention

A small study conducted by researchers from the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV (CDUHR) at New York University concludes that managers and staff of publicly patronized business establishments can be effective first responders to incidents of opioid overdose, if they are properly trained. A prior investigation by the same team from CDUHR found that 58% of New York City managers of these establishments, such as fast food restaurants and coffee shops, had witnessed drug use in their business’s bathroom, and 14% were confronted with an unresponsive patron, presumably due to opioid misuse, within a 6-month period. Lead author Brett Wolfson-Stofko, PhD, research scientist at National Development and Research Institutes, commented, “Because opioid overdoses may occur in public bathrooms, business managers and staff unwittingly become first responders. Providing training to service industry employees on how to respond to an overdose and administer naloxone will help us save lives.” The findings were published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The study engaged 18 coffee shop employees in New York City in a 90-minute training exercise, 1/3rd of which was devoted to naloxone administration in response to overdose. Participants were also instructed in the state’s naloxone access and Good Samaritan laws, as well as in the recognition of signs of overdose involving common opioids. Through focus group sessions and pre- and post-training testing, participants’ confidence in their ability and readiness to respond to an overdose encounter was assessed, with a significant improvement in overall competence observed. The authors noted that 911 response times for a medical emergency in the city averaged 7 minutes, but brain damage from overdose induced respiratory arrest can take as little as 3 minutes. 

Read about the study conclusions.

The journal abstract may be read here.

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