An exploratory study of opioid drug overdoses and how law enforcement officers are affected in their personal and professional lives


  • Dena Marie Weiss
  • Daniel Gutierrez
  • Andrea Gutierrez
  • Matthew Loux


Opioids, overdose, Narcan, police officers


This exploratory study measures the impact on law enforcement as it relates to police officers responding to opioid drug overdoses. A brief survey was developed to explore how responding to opioid overdoses impacted police officers’ personal and professional lives. The results indicate that 59% of the police officers surveyed (n=262) had responded to an opioid overdose while on duty and 46% (n=204) involved a fatal overdose. Data showed that 32.7% (n=139) of the officers indicated they felt uneasy regarding the potentially adverse effects of responding to an opioid overdose and 31.8% (n=135) experienced a heightened awareness of the danger to themselves or other family members. A preliminary examination of the data indicates that opioid overdose calls may be problematic for law enforcement, provoking anxiety and impacting their family lives. The limited study revealed a small percentage of officers experienced hopelessness or feelings that responding to opioid overdose incidents is futile. Post reactions such as anxiety were documented after administering Narcan® to victims of an overdose when children were present. There is a need for further research to gather additional data. At the time of this study, the use of Narcan by law enforcement was rare. Future research is recommended in assessing the anxiety level of officers administering Narcan versus other life-saving activities.

Author Biographies

Dena Marie Weiss

Dena Marie Weiss PhD is a criminal justice and forensics professor with over 25 years of experience in law enforcement. She began her career as a microanalyst and serologist with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and spent numerous years in local law enforcement working as a crime scene investigator and fingerprint analyst. She has provided expert testimony for both the prosecution and defense in the state of Florida as well as the federal court system. Dr. Weiss has been teaching and developing criminal justice curriculum online for 18 years.

Daniel Gutierrez

Daniel Gutierrez recently retired as an assistant professor of criminal justice from Penn State Hazleton. He has authored and co-authored numerous articles on the scholarship of teaching and learning. His research interests include social justice issues as well as homicide investigations.

Andrea Gutierrez

Andrea Gutierrez is a professor in the Bachelor of Social Work program at Touro Worldwide University, Los Alamitos, California. Andrea’s interests include trauma and substance abuse disorders, trauma-informed care, and vicarious trauma in the helping professions.

Matthew Loux

Matthew Loux PhD has been in law enforcement for 31 years and has been teaching at American Public University since 2012. Dr. Loux has been a curriculum developer and teacher for 10 years. Dr. Loux has three fraud certifications and has several years’ experience in local and federal law enforcement.




How to Cite

Weiss, D. M., Gutierrez, D., Gutierrez, A., & Loux, M. (2023). An exploratory study of opioid drug overdoses and how law enforcement officers are affected in their personal and professional lives. Salus Journal, 10(2), 72–90. Retrieved from



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