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Overdose prevention

Overdose prevention education is vital to the health and safety of the Boston community.

In 2022, Boston recorded 352 opioid-related deaths, the most ever, marking a 36% increase since 2019. This surge in opioid-related fatalities in Boston is more than double the state-wide rate. Opioid-related overdoses have disproportionately impacted Black and Latinx individuals in Boston. From 2020-2022 combined, the average annual opioid overdose mortality rate for Black and Latinx residents was 66% and 31% higher than white residents, respectively. This data emphasizes the need for equitable access to harm reduction, prevention, and treatment services in Boston. Each life lost to overdose is a tragedy.

Overdose deaths are preventable, and can be prevented by laypeople.

Public Health Advisories

Xylazine Advisory

Detection systems are increasingly identifying a non-opioid tranquilizer called xylazine in street drug samples from Massachusetts. The presence of xylazine in the street drug supply concerns public health officials. The tranquilizer contributes to oversedation and increases the risk of injury and fatal overdose. We're asking healthcare providers, outreach workers, and the general public to be vigilant. Check for signs of an overdose where xylazine may be involved. Please call 911 if someone is experiencing an overdose. You can call 311 if someone needs services related to substance use issues. Our full advisory about xylazine is available online. We also created a print flyer

Cocaine Advisory 

In 2021, 12% of cocaine samples tested in Boston were found to contain fentanyl. We urge you to remain vigilant for signs of opioid overdose, especially among individuals who use cocaine. We offer resources for preventing fatal overdoses, including drug testing for fentanyl, naloxone, and overdose rescue training


Each year in Boston about 10,000 individuals undergo training on how to administer naloxone, the life-saving medication that reverses an opioid overdose.

What is naloxone?

Naloxone (also known as Narcan) is an FDA-approved medication that quickly reverses opioid overdose. It works by blocking the effects of opioids thus temporarily reversing overdose. It is a temporary solution, so seeking immediate medical help after administering naloxone is crucial. It has been credited with reversing nearly 1,124 overdoses in Boston from October 2016 to May 2017. The City offers education and training to:

  • opioid users
  • their families, and
  • community partners that work or may come into contact with people at risk of overdosing.

When receiving this training, participants will learn:

  • about the importance of calling 9-1-1 in the event of an overdose
  • how to perform rescue breathing
  • how to administer nasal Naloxone, and
  • about the various treatment options that exist for opioid users.

how to get naloxone

Those looking to obtain Naloxone can obtain it in the following ways: 

  • Visit a pharmacy in Massachusetts, or their online website. 

  • Talk to your doctor about getting a prescription and about what your insurance covers.  

  • Attend and complete an overdose prevention training (limited supply available.) 

  • If you are a community program you can apply for access to discounted naloxone and fentanyl test strips through BSAS. You can check the eligibility of the Community Naloxone Program here

To learn more about Naloxone, please watch our information video in English or Español.

Over-the-counter naloxone

As of March 29, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval for Narcan, a 4mg naloxone nasal spray, to be available without a prescription. This marks it to be the first OTC naloxone product. Narcan will now be accessible in drug stores, convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations, and online.


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has announced that they will now fully cover the cost of Narcan for over-the-counter use. MassHealth and several other insurers cover prescription Narcan. Medicare, following FDA approval, also plans to provide coverage for over-the-counter naloxone with no cost-sharing. As for other insurers, coverage for the over-the-counter version may vary. 

Overdose prevention training

You can submit a request for overdose prevention training with our team:

Request training
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