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Reducing drug related deaths: a pre-implementation assessment of knowledge,barriers and enablers for naloxone distribution through general practice

Catriona Matheson1*, Christiane Pflanz-Sinclair1, Lorna Aucott2, Philip Wilson2, Richard Watson3, Stephen Malloy4, Elinor Dickie5 and Andrew McAuley6

Author Affiliations

1 Academic Primary Care, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

2 Division of Applied Health Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

3 RCGP (Scotland) Clinical Lead Addiction, Glasgow, UK

4 Stephen Malloy Training and Consultancy, Glasgow (formerly Scottish Drugs Forum), Glasgow, UK

5 Public Health Adviser (NHS Scotland), Thistle House, 91 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, UK

6 Public Health Adviser (NHS Scotland), Meridian Court, Glasgow, UK

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BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:12  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-12

Published: 15 January 2014



The Scottish Naloxone Programme aims to reduce Scotland’s high number of drug-related deaths (DRDs) caused by opiate overdose. It is currently implemented through specialist drug services but General Practitioners (GPs) are likely to have contact with drug using patients and their families and are therefore in an ideal position to direct them to naloxone schemes, or provide it themselves. This research gathered baseline data on GP’s knowledge of and willingness to be involved in DRD prevention, including naloxone administration, prior to the implementation of primary care based delivery.


Mixed methods were used comprising a quantitative, postal survey and qualitative telephone interviews. A questionnaire was sent to 500 GPs across Scotland. An initial mailing was followed by a reminder. A shortened questionnaire containing seven key questions was posted as a final reminder. Telephone interviews were conducted with 17 GPs covering a range of demographic characteristics and drug user experience.


A response rate of 55% (240/439) was achieved. There was some awareness of the naloxone programme but little involvement (3.3%), 9% currently provided routine overdose prevention, there was little involvement in displaying overdose prevention information (<20%). Knowledge of DRD risk was mixed. There was tentative willingness to be involved in naloxone prescribing with half of respondents willing to provide this to drug users or friends/family. However half were uncertain GP based naloxone provision was essential to reduce DRDs.

Factors enabling naloxone distribution were: evidence of effectiveness, appropriate training, and adding to the local formulary. Interviewees had limited awareness of what naloxone distribution in primary care may involve and considered naloxone supply as a specialist service rather than a core GP role. Wider attitudinal barriers to involvement with this group were expressed.


There was poor awareness of the Scottish National Naloxone Programme in participants. Results indicated GPs did not currently feel sufficiently skilled or knowledgeable to be involved in naloxone provision. Appropriate training was identified as a key requirement.