April 18, 2014

NIDA International Program Director Steven W. Gust, Ph.D., was among the international drug abuse experts who met to discuss drafting World Health Organization (WHO) evidence-based guidelines for managing opioid overdose. The meeting was held February 19–20, 2014, in Geneva. According to WHO, between 70,000 and 100,000 people die annually from overdose, and opioid-related respiratory depression causes many of those deaths. The guidelines development group examined evidence from clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness, risks, and benefits of various opioid overdose interventions and discussed best practices established in different countries. Participants also discussed legal and ethical issues emerging from adoption of take-home naloxone doses to ensure that people dependent on opioids, their families, peers, and first responders have access to this proven overdose treatment medication in cases of emergency. Advocates suggested that improving access to naloxone might reduce opioid overdose deaths and provide treatment options in countries with limited access to health service for people who inject drugs.