Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

‘I’m not going to leave someone to die’: carriage of naloxone by police in Scotland within a public health framework: a qualitative study of acceptability and experiences

Speakman, Elizabeth M.; Hillen, Peter; Heyman, Inga; Murray, Jennifer; Dougall, Nadine; Aston, Elizabeth V.; McAuley, Andrew


Elizabeth M. Speakman

Andrew McAuley


Scotland has one of the highest rates of drug-related deaths (DRDs) per capita in Europe, the majority of which involve opioids. Naloxone is a medication used to reverse opioid-related overdoses. In efforts to tackle escalating DRDs in many countries, naloxone is increasingly being provided to people who are likely first responders in overdose situations. This includes non-healthcare professionals, such as police officers. A pilot exercise to test the carriage and administration of naloxone by police officers was conducted in selected areas of Scotland between March and October 2021. The aim of the study was to explore the acceptability and experiences of naloxone carriage and administration by police in Scotland.

The study comprised of two stages. Stage 1 involved in-depth one-to-one qualitative interviews with 19 community stakeholders (people with lived experience, family members, support workers). Stage 2 involved a mixture of in-depth one-to-one interviews and focus groups with 41 police officers. Data were analysed thematically, and the findings from the two stages were triangulated to develop overarching themes and subthemes.

By the end of the pilot, 808 police officers had been trained in the use of intranasal naloxone. Voluntary uptake of naloxone kits among police officers who completed training was 81%. There were 51 naloxone administration incidents recorded by police officers at suspected opioid-related overdose incidents during the pilot. Most officers shared positive experiences of naloxone administration. Naloxone as a first aid tool suited their role as first responders and their duty and desire to preserve life. Perceived barriers included concerns about police undertaking health-related work, potential legal liabilities and stigmatising attitudes. The majority of participants (and all community stakeholders) were supportive of the pilot and for it to be expanded across Scotland.

Police carriage of naloxone is an acceptable and potentially valuable harm reduction tool to help tackle the DRDs crisis in Scotland. However, it requires appropriate integration with existing health and social care systems. The intervention lies at the intersection between public health and policing and implies a more explicit public health approach to policing.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 3, 2023
Online Publication Date Feb 19, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Feb 7, 2023
Publicly Available Date Feb 21, 2023
Publisher BMC
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Article Number 20
Keywords Naloxone, Police, Drug deaths, Public health, Harm reduction


You might also like

Downloadable Citations