harm reduction; opioid use; overdose prevention; syringe service program; naloxone; people who use drugs


The ongoing overdose problem in the United States, particularly exacerbated by the widespread use of fentanyl, and polydrug use, represents a critical public health challenge. This thesis explores how people who use drugs (PWUD) in Orlando, Florida, are responding to the overdose problem in their community. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted at a syringe services program in Summer 2023, I argue that PWUD in Orlando actively take measures to prevent overdose and overdose deaths but are faced with many obstacles that challenge their overdose prevention efforts. I examine overdose narratives of PWUD to show how factors preventing effective overdose prevention are not just systemic but also cultural. In particular, the prevailing stigma of opioid use hinders the creation of a supportive environment for preventing overdoses and perpetuates the ostracization of PWUD in Orlando. Recognizing the profound influence of stigma towards the PWUD with whom I conducted research, I make the case for reimagining overdose prevention as a comprehensive effort in Orlando to equip PWUD, their families, first responders, and the broader community with the knowledge, skills, and tools to address overdose. Such efforts also have the potential to recalibrate cultural misconceptions and biases toward PWUD. As Florida and the nation continue to experience an overdose problem, understanding local cultural and structural challenges remains pivotal. This project demonstrates that by integrating comprehensive training and combating stigmatization of PWUD, Orlando communities can prevent overdose and save lives more effectively.

Thesis Completion Year


Thesis Completion Semester


Thesis Chair

Harris, Shana


College of Sciences


Department of Athropology

Thesis Discipline




Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus Access