Oct. 7, 2021 – The medication naloxone is so effective at saving the lives of opioid overdose victims that some people worry that it might make drug users think heroin and related drugs are no longer risky.

But a new study suggests that is not the case.

Increased access to naloxone didn’t lead Americans, even drug users, to think heroin was less risky, the findings showed.

“It is really difficult to change people’s perceptions of how risky heroin is,” said Mike Vuolo, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at The Ohio State University.

“Even people who use heroin know it is risky, and access to naloxone has not changed that.”

Vuolo conducted the study with Brian Kelly, professor of sociology at Purdue University. It was published today (October 7, 2021) in the journal Addiction.

Naloxone is a prescription medication that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose by restoring normal breathing in an overdose victim whose breathing has slowed or stopped. The medication has no effect on people who don’t have opioids in their systems, so it is safe to use.

Naloxone is available in a nasal spray, making it easy to administer.

The researchers used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted yearly by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. They used data from 2004 to 2016, which included 884,800 respondents aged 12 and older.

Participants were asked to rate how risky they thought any heroin use was on a 4-point scale from “none” to “great risk.” They were also asked how risky they thought regular heroin use was, on the same scale.


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