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Rural Health Information Hub

Preventing Poisoning from Illicit Drugs and Prescription Medications

Poisoning deaths in rural communities are overwhelmingly caused by accidental drug overdoses. These deaths can occur either from misuse of prescription medications — primarily opioid painkillers — or from use of illicit drugs. The Rural Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders Toolkit presents multiple approaches to preventing injuries and deaths associated with drug overdose, including:

Examples of Programs for Preventing Poisonings from Drug Overdose

  • The MaineGeneral Harm Reduction Program in rural Kennebec and Somerset Counties trains providers, community members, and first responders on using naloxone to prevent drug overdose. The program includes community education and distribution of naloxone to people who are at risk for drug overdose and members of their social network.
  • The School-Based Drug Misuse Prevention Program in rural Belpre, Ohio uses the HOPE (Health and Opioid Abuse Prevention Education) curriculum to help deter children from experimenting with drugs. The K-12 program engages children in age-appropriate classroom instruction that emphasizes healthy decision-making.
  • The San Luis Valley Area Health Education Center N.E.E.D.: Naloxone Education Empowerment Distribution Program trains first responders in six rural counties in Colorado to administer naloxone. The AHEC also works with local pharmacies to ensure that trained individuals can access naloxone free of charge. The program brings together providers and community partners to identify additional cross-sector strategies to prevent overdoses.
  • The Midcoast Maine Prescription Opioid Reduction Program provided prescribing guidelines to providers in emergency departments in rural midcoast Maine. The guidelines sought to prevent overdoses by discouraging providers from prescribing opioids to patients who were at highest risk for abusing opioids. The guidelines suggested that providers carefully review the patient's medication history, especially among patients who reported losing their prescriptions.

Resources to Learn More

Center on Rural Addiction: Resources & Tools
Offers educational resources focused on behavioral health and substance use disorder for providers, policymakers, health departments, health services, and clinics. Resources include summaries of research reports, data reports, webinars, training videos, and user guides on substance use treatment for patients and providers.
Organization(s): Center on Rural Addiction, University of Vermont

Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center
Provides resources focused on substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery for incorporating into clinical or community settings. Topics include the misuse of prescription medications, and use of illicit drugs that can lead to unintentional overdoses.
Organization(s): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

RCORP-TA: Trainings and Resources
A searchable list of training materials, documents, and other resources focused on the reduction of mortality and morbidity due to substance use disorder in high risk rural communities.
Organization(s): Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) – Technical Assistance