According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose rates have increased roughly five-fold since 1990. The CDC attributes the rise in drug overdose deaths to a higher use of prescription painkillers and increasing numbers of overdoses of cocaine and prescription sedatives. In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, the CDC reports 52,404 drug overdose deaths, 33,091 (or 63%) of these deaths were attributed to opioids, in the United States.
Providing overdose prevention, recognition, and response education to drug users and their neighbors, friends, families, and the service providers who work with them is a harm reduction intervention that saves lives. Heroin and other opioid overdoses are particularly amenable to intervention as risk factors are well-understood and there is a safe antidote – naloxone.