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Peer Support and Overdose Prevention Responses: A Systematic ‘State-of-the-Art’ Review

Mercer, Fiona; Miler, Joanna Astrid; Pauly, Bernie; Carver, Hannah; Hn�zdilov�, Kristina; Foster, Rebecca; Parkes, Tessa


Fiona Mercer

Joanna Astrid Miler

Bernie Pauly

Hannah Carver

Kristina Hn�zdilov�

Tessa Parkes


Overdose prevention for people who use illicit drugs is essential during the current overdose crisis. Peer support is a process whereby individuals with lived or living experience of a particular phenomenon provide support to others by explicitly drawing on these experiences. This review provides a systematic search and evidence synthesis of peer support within overdose prevention interventions for people who use illicit drugs. A systematic search of six databases (CINAHL, SocINDEX, PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Scopus, and Web of Knowledge) was conducted in November 2020 for papers published in English between 2000 and 2020. Following screening and full-text review, 46 papers met criteria and were included in this review. A thematic analysis approach was used to synthesize themes. Important findings include: the value of peers in creating trusted services; the diversity of peers’ roles; the implications of barriers on peer-involved overdose prevention interventions; and the stress and trauma experienced by peers. Peers play a pivotal role in overdose prevention interventions for people who use illicit drugs and are essential to the acceptability and feasibility of such services. However, peers face considerable challenges within their roles, including trauma and burnout. Future interventions must consider how to support and strengthen peer roles in overdose settings.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 11, 2021
Online Publication Date Nov 17, 2021
Publication Date 2021-11
Deposit Date Sep 20, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 22, 2022
Journal International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 22
Article Number 12073
Keywords harm reduction; peer support; peer-involved interventions; illicit drug use; overdose prevention; lived experience; systematic review; state-of-the art review
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