How One State Applied Community Programs to Prevent and Spot Drug Overdoses

Community meeting, Massachusetts.

If we lived in a world where fewer people died from drug overdoses, that would be a better world indeed. We can strive to make that world a reality by getting trained on not only how to prevent overdoses, but on how to spot overdoses when they do occur, and then on how to respond to them.

A Massachusetts program called “Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution” is taking the nation by storm. Massachusetts struggled with crippling drug overdose rates for years, an epidemic that claimed more lives in that state than those who died in motor vehicle accidents.

In an effort to address their own, micro-opioid epidemic, Massachusetts initiated the Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution program. This program was designed to teach others how to prevent overdoses and, should an overdose occur regardless, how to spot and respond to an overdose.

The Massachusetts program seeks to utilize the families and friends of drug users, potential bystanders, community leaders, teachers, law enforcement officers, and other individuals in the fight against overdose deaths. By educating as many people as possible and by making overdose medicines as available as possible, the Massachusetts program hopes to reduce drug overdoses in their own state. Other states have leaped onto the bandwagon, hoping similar programs will be effective in their own states.

How the Program Performed in Massachusetts

After the Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution program was implemented in Mass, the Boston University School of Medicine performed a study on nineteen Massachusetts communities that had implemented the program. These were communities that had previously struggled with terrible overdose problems.

According to the research, communities which implemented such programs experienced an immense reduction in their overdose rates, where-as communities that did not implement such programs stayed the same or experienced increases in overdose rates.

As the research of Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution programs began to show promise, other groups began researching the results. As soon as the Boston University School of Medicine reported success, the Boston Medical Center and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health both researched and validated the Boston University School of Medicine’s research.

Public Education on Drug Overdose Prevention is an Effective Strategy

When we get the communities active and working towards a massive reduction in a drug crisis, we begin making real progress in taking a drug problem down a notch. Community action has to be the most underutilized tool in fighting the drug epidemic, the best weapon that we have yet to really use on the drug problem.

Across the nation, we could all take a page out of Massachusetts’s book and start working on our own community programs. We need community programs that teach about the risks attendant with drug abuse, the difficulties involved when people do abuse drugs and alcohol, and what is really at stake here. People need to understand that drug abuse and alcoholism is a growing epidemic, and it is a crippling crisis that the government cannot solve for us.

When communities work together to prevent overdoses, to spot them when they do occur, and to respond to them medically when they are spotted, that community suddenly breaks free from being a victim of their drug problem and instead assumes a point of causation and steadfast control over their own drug problem. This is what we need to shoot for, as no one is going to fix this problem for us. We can remedy the addiction plague that has stretched across the nation, but it will take strong effort in every American community to do so.


(To preserve privacy, the photo does not show the people featured in this article.)



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.