UMMS Affiliation

Department of Emergency Medicine

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Document Type



Emergency Medicine | Health Services Administration | Substance Abuse and Addiction


INTRODUCTION: Bystander naloxone distribution is an important component of public health initiatives to decrease opioid-related deaths. While there is evidence supporting naloxone distribution programs, the effects of increasing naloxone availability on the behavior of people who use drugs have not been adequately delineated. In this study we sought to 1) evaluate whether individuals' drug use patterns have changed due to naloxone availability; and 2) explore individuals' knowledge of, access to, experiences with, and perceptions of naloxone.

METHODS: We conducted a pilot study of adults presenting to the emergency department whose medical history included non-medical opioid use. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants and thematic analysis was used to code and analyze interview transcripts.

RESULTS: Ten participants completed the study. All were aware of naloxone by brand name (Narcan) and had been trained in its use, and all but one had either currently or previously possessed a kit. Barriers to naloxone administration included fear of legal repercussions, not having it available, and a desire to avoid interrupting another user's "high." Of the eight participants who reported being revived with naloxone at least once during their lifetime, all described experiencing a noxious physical response and expressed a desire to avoid receiving it again. Furthermore, participants did not report increasing their use of opioids when naloxone was available.

CONCLUSIONS: Participants were accepting of and knowledgeable about naloxone, and were willing to administer naloxone to save a life. Participants tended to use opioids more cautiously when naloxone was present due to fears of experiencing precipitated withdrawal. This study provides preliminary evidence countering the unsubstantiated narrative that increased naloxone availability begets more high-risk opioid use and further supports increasing naloxone access.


naloxone, Narcan, opioid use

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Copyright: © 2021 Lai et al. This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) License. See:

DOI of Published Version



Lai JT, Goldfine CE, Chapman BP, Taylor MM, Rosen RK, Carreiro SP, Babu KM. Nobody Wants to Be Narcan'd: A Pilot Qualitative Analysis of Drug Users' Perspectives on Naloxone. West J Emerg Med. 2021 Feb 8;22(2):339-345. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2020.10.48768. PMID: 33856321; PMCID: PMC7972385. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The western journal of emergency medicine

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.