Alice David, Associate Professor Peter Higgs, Penny Hill


Hospitalisations and deaths due to heroin consumption are increasing in Australia and worldwide. People who inject drugs (PWID) are more susceptible to overdose than those who administer drugs via other routes. Experience of non-fatal overdose is also a strong predictor of a future fatal overdose. Considerable research has been undertaken to understand the predictors of non-fatal overdose. However, minimal research has focused specifically on the strategies that PWID employ to prevent overdose.


The project aims to understand any behavioural approaches that PWID apply to opioid overdose prevention. Research findings will be distributed to PWID and community health workers to help prevent future overdose. 

Who Will Benefit?

This study will benefit PWID and community health workers by adding to the pool of evidence regarding overdose prevention strategies.


Purposive sampling will be used to recruit a sub-sample of participants from the SuperMIX cohort. Managed by the Burnet Institute, SuperMIX is Australia’s largest prospective cohort study of PWID with around 1,300 people currently enrolled. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with participants using positive deviance and life course mapping techniques. Narratives from those in the cohort who report never overdosing will be compared to cohort members who report having done so.


To the best of our knowledge, positive deviance and life course mapping approaches have not yet been used to study opioid overdose prevention. This novel study will add to the evidence base regarding opioid overdose prevention strategies from the perspective of PWID.


This research project was approved by La Trobe University’s Human Ethics Committee in May 2020. Participant recruitment will commence in the coming months. 




For more information relating to this project, please contact Peter Higgs: