SAMHSA’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit Gets An Update

By Beth Leipholtz 06/14/18

The refreshed online resource offers a variety of strategies, information and advice on how to prevent opioid overdoses. 

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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has updated its Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit, which contains resources about opioid overdose prevention.

The toolkit is divided into various sections, depending on the target audience. 

The beginning outlines the opioid crisis and strategies that can be implemented to minimize overdose deaths. Such strategies include encouraging people to learn how to prevent/manage an opioid overdose, making sure there is access to treatment, having naloxone be easily accessible, encouraging the public to call 911, and encouraging those prescribing medications to utilize state prescription drug monitoring programs.  

Five Essential Steps For First Responders

The guide then shifts into a section geared toward first responders and outlines five steps that they should take. The steps include evaluating a person for signs of an overdose, calling 911, giving naloxone, supporting the person’s breathing and monitoring their response. The guide also warns that what appears to be an overdose can sometimes be something else.

“If a person does not respond to naloxone, an alternative explanation for the clinical symptoms should be considered,” the guide states. “The most likely explanation is that the person is not overdosing on an opioid but rather some other substance or may be experiencing a non-overdose medical emergency.” 

Information For Prescribers

The guide also has a section geared toward prescribers, which outlines 12 prescribing recommendations split into three categories: determining when to initiate or continue opioids for chronic pain; opioid selection, dosage, duration, follow-up and discontinuation; and assessing risk and addressing harms of opioid use.

"When potentially harmful behaviors are identified (e.g., high-volume use of opioids; taking opioids in combination with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or other respiratory depressants; using illicit opioids where contents of substance cannot be confirmed), it is important to offer education that can reduce that individual’s risk for overdose," the guide states. "Providing basic risk reduction messaging, overdose prevention education, and a naloxone prescription can be lifesaving interventions."

The guide also covers legal and liability topics, as well as claims coding and billing for prescribers.  

Safety Advice For Patients & Family Members

This section is geared toward patients and family members of patients and covers an array of topics, from the signs of an overdose to preventing an overdose.

It also outlines best practices for naloxone use and storage. 

“Store naloxone in a safe and quickly accessible place at room temperature and protected from light,” the guide reads. “Keep all medicine in a safe place where children or pets cannot reach it.” 

Recovering From Opioid Overdose

This is the section for those in recovery from opioid overdose. 

“Survivors of opioid overdose have experienced a life-changing and traumatic event,” the guide states. “They have had to deal with the emotional consequences of overdosing, which can involve embarrassment, guilt, anger, and gratitude, all accompanied by the discomfort of opioid withdrawal. Most need the support of family and friends to take the next steps toward recovery.”

The guide talks the user through why support is vital in recovery and also has a lengthy list of helpful resources at the end.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.