Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute

New Research: “Like it was just everyday business”: Experiences of Pharmacy Customers Requesting Naloxone or Syringes


As rates of overdoses involving opioids continue to rise in the U.S., community pharmacies are increasingly being seen as a way to provide easier and expanded access to harm reduction supplies like naloxone and non-prescription syringes (NPS).

This article, co-authored by ADAI Research Associate Professor Anthony S. Floyd, PhD, looks at what customers thought of their experiences getting naloxone and NPS from community pharmacies participating in Respond to Prevent (R2P), an intervention to increase dispensing rates of harm reduction supplies.

Of the 32 participants in this study, most (88%) successfully obtained naloxone and the majority (82%) of those seeking NPS were also successful.

Participants reported positive overall experiences and shared that they felt respected by pharmacist and valued naloxone counseling sessions tailored to meet their needs.

One participant reported, “You know, what surprised me was the pleasantry, actually. What surprised me was that I wasn’t looked at funny. That I wasn’t double-talked. Like, what did you say? I wasn’t treated like that. And I felt very comfortable. I think they [the pharmacist] handled that part very well.”

Participants also reported a few barriers, including structural challenges that prohibited the purchase of naloxone and some occasions where some staff lacked knowledge, treated participants poorly, or did not adequately provide expected naloxone training.

For example, one participant said, “I feel like just, gross. Like she [the pharmacy technician] kind of just saw me as like a piece of scum, essentially. Like, oh, okay, you’re getting this. Like, you’re just a drug addict, like whatever, just go somewhere else. That type of vibe.”

Conclusions: These results strengthen the case for empowering pharmacies to provide these services to community members in need, while also informing interventions and training of pharmacy staff on how to avoid barriers and prevent stigma against customers seeking harm reduction supplies.

Citation: Gray M, et al. “Like it was just everyday business”: A qualitative study of pharmacy-based naloxone and syringe customer experience. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association 2023 (in press).

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