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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Public Health

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Opioid overdose fatalities have quadrupled in the United States since the turn of the century, and are becoming increasingly recognized as a nationwide epidemic. While naloxone (narcan) has long been the standard treatment for overdose in clinical settings, it has not been issued to opioid users or their family members in the U.S. until relatively recently. As naloxone distribution and overdose training become more widespread, they are being incorporated into more and more abstinence-oriented settings including detoxes, halfway houses, and outpatient methadone and suboxone treatment programs. This qualitative study explored whether the staff at such programs found that training their patients to use naloxone was disruptive or controversial, and whether they found it difficult to reconcile these trainings’ basis in harm reduction with their personal and organizational philosophies about substance use and recovery. Ten subjects from Eastern and Central Massachusetts were interviewed about their experience introducing naloxone to their patients under the aegis of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Pilot Program, and their interviews were analyzed from a descriptive phenomenological perspective. This approach seeks to distill the essence of a phenomenon by analyzing the narratives of those who have experienced it, and has been found especially useful when exploring questions that have not yet been studied in depth. The analysis identified eleven recurring themes, grouped into four broad domains (What is overdose prevention training? What is narcan? What is harm reduction? What is the goal of treatment?). These themes suggested that while subjects overwhelmingly experienced naloxone distribution and overdose prevention training as positive additions to their workplace, this experience did not necessarily lead to more engagement with the broader concept of harm reduction.


First Advisor

David R. Buchanan

Second Advisor

Tameka L. Gillum