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This study adds to the literature on how people who use drugs qualitatively experience trauma resulting from witnessing and responding to overdose, through the lens of the Trauma-Informed Theory of Individual Health Behavior.
A vast majority reported trauma from witnessing overdoses. Participants reported that the severity of trauma varied by contextual factors such as the closeness of the relationship to the person overdosing or whether the event was their first experience witnessing an overdose. Participants often described symptoms of trauma including rumination, guilt, and hypervigilance. Some reported normalization of witnessing overdoses due to how common overdoses were, while some acknowledged overdoses will never be “normal.” The impacts of witnessing overdose on drug use behaviors varied from riskier substance use to increased motivation for treatment and safer drug use practices.
Semi-structured in-depth phone interviews (n=17)