"We did not find evidence that THN [Take-Home Naloxone] training was associated with risk compensation behavior in this cohort of people who inject drugs. Rather, there was no significant change in frequency of injecting any drugs, injecting opioids, or using benzodiazepines after accessing THN. There was also no change in the proportion of time that participants reported using drugs alone, a key indicator of overdose mortality risk.30,38,39
"There was no evidence of THN-associated compensatory risk behavior in this cohort. While not all overdose risk behaviors were examined in this study (eg, injecting in public, concomitant use of alcohol or benzodiazepines, and use of fentanyl),40,41 frequency of opioid injecting and frequency of benzodiazepine use are 2 of the most important risk factors for overdose. The association between knowledge of and engagement in overdose risk behaviors is complex,38 and THN is designed to be used on other people who may be at risk of overdose; therefore, it may be pertinent to examine the implications of naloxone availability for drug use in peer networks. In a qualitative study, participants with opioid use disorder residing in residential drug treatment programs in the US described both no change to their drug use and some engagement in riskier behavior by themselves or peers (eg, injecting heroin laced with fentanyl).42 However, this finding has not been borne out in empirical evidence and does not appear to correspond with increases in overdose at the population level.3,4
"Findings from this work are consistent with an emerging evidence base suggesting that concerns about risk compensation with naloxone availability are unfounded.4 Yet, these concerns continue to be raised as objections for expanding THN supply.7,11 For example, a number of pharmacists in a recent Australian study expressed concerns about distributing naloxone, as they believed that recipients would feel comfortable increasing their opioid use.43 However, because naloxone administration can be associated with opioid withdrawal and reverses the effects of any opioids that have been recently taken, the outcomes of naloxone are considered unpleasant by people who inject drugs, meaning that they are typically reluctant to administer the drug.42,44 Furthermore, it is questionable whether this concern is reason enough to withhold a lifesaving medication from people. Only 40.4% of participants in the SuperMIX study reported THN training, despite most of the sample reporting the use of opioids. There is a clear need for widespread education among health care practitioners and other key stakeholders to enable them to address this common assumption about THN, which can act as a barrier to THN supply so that coverage is increased."
Colledge-Frisby S, Rathnayake K, Nielsen S, et al. Injection Drug Use Frequency Before and After Take-Home Naloxone Training. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(8):e2327319. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.27319