Opioid Resource Center

Opioid Resource Center

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
October 26, 2020
3 min read

Q&A: VR program effectively trains people to respond to opioid overdose

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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A new virtual reality training program could help educate the public on how to respond to an opioid overdose, including how to properly use naloxone, according to research published Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The virtual reality (VR) program, developed by a group of interdisciplinary researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, was shown to be as effective as in-person training.

Penn opioid overdose response training program
Source: University of Pennsylvania

Researchers compared the efficacy of the training strategies during naloxone distribution events at nine libraries in Philadelphia. The libraries were randomly assigned to conduct VR training or standard in-person training.

The VR training consisted of a 9-minute immersive video designed to address core characteristics of identifying and responding to an opioid overdose. The content was validated by public health practitioners and clinicians specializing in addiction medicine.

In the standard in-person training, participants received instruction from a single trainer. The material was tailored based on participants’ prior knowledge of opioid overdose. The training varied from 5 to 20 minutes.

Ninety-four participants in the training programs completed surveys on their attitudes and knowledge about opioid overdose. The surveys assessed participants’ knowledge of opioid overdose indicators and the effects of naloxone.

Researchers found that knowledge and attitude scores increased among all participants immediately after training. They did not identify a statistically significant difference in median knowledge score before or after training between either the VR or standard training groups. According to researchers, this suggests that scores improved collectively across all trainings.

Healio Primary Care spoke with study author Nicholas A. Giordano, PhD, BSN, RN, a former lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and current assistant professor at Emory University, to learn more about the VR program.

Q: What is the importance of offering alternatives to in-person training on administering naloxone?

A: The current pandemic is expected to continue to exacerbate the ongoing opioid-related public health crisis. Individuals are more socially distanced than ever before and as a result may be using opioids in increasingly isolating environments. Therefore, making naloxone trainings accessible across a variety of platforms to a wider audience, all while maintaining social distance, is vital to empowering community members to respond to opioid overdoses. Our interdisciplinary team of nurses, communication experts, videographers and public health officials recently developed a virtual reality naloxone training and opioid overdose reversal video for non-health care professionals. This engaging training teaches participants how to recognize the signs and symptoms of an overdose and how to respond appropriately. This training could be valuable for participants in close proximity to, or even those living with, individuals at risk of an opioid-related overdose.

Q: What does the VR training session entail?

A: In this brief video, participants are immersed in real-world settings where bystanders successfully respond to an opioid-related overdose. The participant can explore the space in 360 as the responders call for emergency assistance, assess for signs and symptoms of an overdose, explain how they administer naloxone and comfort an individual after they regain consciousness.

Q: Can PCPs recommend this training to patients with OUD and their families?

A: This training is part of a toolbox of options available for any clinician interested in providing naloxone training resources to patients, their families, friends or caregivers. This training can be used in tandem with verbal or written training that clinicians already offer to individuals interested in learning more about how to respond to an overdose. Uniquely, this training not only walks participants through the steps of administering naloxone, but also what to potentially expect after someone regains consciousness. Each patient’s training needs will be different, so clinicians should first determine the appropriateness of this, and any other training resource, for their patient and family members.

Q: What costs are associated with this training?

A: The training is freely available to view at virtualinnovation.org. Anyone can view the training on either a smartphone or tablet with or without a virtual reality headset. However, the video is optimized for viewing using virtual reality headsets such as a Google Cardboard, which are available for purchase from vendors for as little as $10 to $15. Prior to the pandemic, here in the Philadelphia area, many public libraries had virtual reality equipment available for patrons to use.