Who Receives Naloxone from Emergency Medical Services?

Characteristics of Calls and Recent Trends

Published in: Substance Abuse (2019). doi: 10.1080/08897077.2019.1640832

Posted on RAND.org on September 17, 2019

by Caroline Geiger, Rosanna Smart, Bradley D. Stein

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With the rapid rise in opioid overdose-related deaths, state policy makers have expanded policies to increase the use of naloxone by emergency medical services (EMS). However, little is known about changes in EMS naloxone administration in the context of continued worsening of the opioid crisis and efforts to increase use of naloxone. This study examines trends in patient demographics and EMS response characteristics over time and by county urbanicity.


We used data from the 2013-2016 National EMS Information System to examine trends in patient demographics and EMS response characteristics for 911-initiated incidents that resulted in EMS naloxone administration. We also assessed temporal, regional, and urban-rural variation in per capita rates of EMS naloxone administrations compared with per capita rates of opioid-related overdose deaths.


From 2013 to 2016, naloxone administrations increasingly involved young adults and occurred in public settings. Particularly in urban counties, there were modest but significant increases in the percentage of individuals who refused subsequent treatment, were treated and released, and received multiple administrations of naloxone before and after arrival of EMS personnel. Over the 4-year period, EMS naloxone administrations per capita increased at a faster rate than opioid-related overdose deaths across urban, suburban, and rural counties. Although national rates of naloxone administration were consistently higher in suburban counties, these trends varied across U.S. Census Regions, with the highest rates of suburban administration occurring in the South.


Naloxone administration rates increased more quickly than opioid deaths across all levels of county urbanicity, but increases in the percentage of individuals requiring multiple doses and refusing subsequent care require further attention.

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