Beliefs and misperceptions about naloxone and overdose among U.S. laypersons: a cross-sectional study

Jon Agley, Yunyu Xiao, Lori Eldridge, Beth Meyerson, Lilian Golzarri-Arroyo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Overdose education and naloxone distribution (OEND) to laypersons are key approaches to reduce the incidence of opioid-involved overdoses. While some research has examined attitudes toward OEND, especially among pharmacists and first responders, our understanding of what laypersons believe about overdose and naloxone is surprisingly limited. Further, some scholars have expressed concerns about the prevalence of non-evidence-based beliefs about overdose and naloxone. We designed this study to analyze the prevalence, nature, and context of beliefs about naloxone and overdose among U.S. laypersons. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study (n = 702) using (representative of the U.S. population by age, gender, and race). Primary outcomes were the believability of six statements about overdose/naloxone on a seven-point Likert-type scale. Five statements were unsupported, and one was supported, by current scientific evidence. We used latent profile analysis to classify participants into belief groups, then used regression to study correlates of profile classification. Results: Believability of the statements (7: extremely believable) ranged from m = 5.57 (SD = 1.38) for a scientifically supported idea (trained bystanders can reverse overdose with naloxone), to m = 3.33 (SD = 1.83) for a statement claiming opioid users can get high on naloxone. Participants were classified into three latent belief profiles: Profile 1 (most aligned with current evidence; n = 246), Profile 2 (moderately aligned; n = 351), and Profile 3 (least aligned, n = 105). Compared to Profile 1, several covariates were associated with categorization into Profiles 2 and 3, including lower trust in science (RRR = 0.36, 95%CI = 0.24–0.54; RRR = 0.21, 95%CI = 0.12–0.36, respectively), conservative political orientation (RRR = 1.41, 95%CI = 1.23–1.63; 3:RRR = 1.62, 95%CI = 1.35–1.95, respectively), and never being trained about naloxone (Profile 3: RRR = 3.37, 95%CI = 1.16–9.77). Conclusions: Preliminary evidence suggests some U.S. laypersons simultaneously believe that bystander overdose prevention with naloxone can prevent overdose and one or more scientifically unsupported claims about naloxone/overdose. Categorization into clusters displaying such belief patterns was associated with low trust in science, conservative political orientation, and not having been trained about naloxone. Preregistration: This cross-sectional study was preregistered prior to any data collection using the Open Science Framework:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number924
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Misinformation
  • Naloxone
  • Opioid epidemic
  • Opioids
  • Overdose
  • Trust in science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Beliefs and misperceptions about naloxone and overdose among U.S. laypersons: a cross-sectional study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this