There are still too many people who have never heard of naloxone , let alone been trained in what to do with it . Do you carry a kit ?
naloxone ’ and allowed them to kick-start the programme in NI . ‘ Before that we had no naloxone , and no sight of it ,’ he said . ‘ Some of the action involved aggressive campaigning ’, developing partnerships with all stakeholders .
DROP IN OVERDOSES When a change in the law in England allowed outreach services and hostels to give out naloxone , as well as pharmacies , a significant drop in overdoses seemed like no coincidence . Meanwhile on the international stage , the EMCDDA published a Europe-wide review of the case for distributing naloxone , which included good practice
and training examples , as well as looking at the legal barriers to distribution .
As the record number of drugrelated deaths dominated DDN conference debate in 2017 , Alex Boyt drew attention to the fact that ‘ people who are dying are not in service , while the naloxone doses are being given to those who are in service . But we ’ re in a situation where the budgets are being cut so severely that people are just clinging on to what they do and not trying anything new . We need to be saturating the drug-using community with naloxone .’ A few months later Alex Stevens , professor of criminology at the University of Kent said he was ‘ saddened and angry ’ that commissioners hadn ’ t got the message that naloxone should be provided to anyone who comes into contact with a person who could be at risk of overdose .
The Local Government Association ( LGA )’ s Naloxone survey 2017 showed that 90 per cent of English local authorities were making THN available , through treatment services , hostels and outreach workers . But Release examined the THN statistics through freedom of information requests and found that just 12 take-home kits were being given out for every 100
‘ Overdose is reversible , death is not .’ George Charlton ’ s alter ego Naloxone Man makes an appearance at the DDN Conference 2023
people using opiates . Levels of naloxone provision by local authorities were ‘ chronically inadequate ’ they stated , as statistics showed opiate-related overdose deaths to be the highest since records began .
Concern was not limited to the sector . Calls for change were being heard from senior police and crime commissioners , who said a ‘ grown-up conversation about drugs ’ needed to involve equipping the police with naloxone . And while we found some examples of highly effective prison healthcare , treatment providers were finding it rare for any of their service users to have been provided with naloxone on release from prison . The government confirmed in 2018 that there were no plans to make this a mandatory requirement for prisons .
UPWARD TRENDS Activism scaled up further in response to diminishing treatment budgets . ‘ Imagine what the drug-related death figure would be if naloxone wasn ’ t about ,’ said Mick Webb , while George Charlton – whose alter ego Naloxone Man would become a regular sight – said : ‘ If we ’ re not giving out naloxone , we ’ re giving the message that it doesn ’ t matter if you die . Overdose is reversable , death is not .’
In examining the ‘ substantial upward trend ’ in drug-related deaths , the Drug , Alcohol and Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group concluded that naloxone was ‘ simply not reaching the people who need it the most ’. The COVID-19 pandemic brought new fears – lockdown measures were compromising the purity of many drugs and dwindling budgets were having an impact on naloxone provision . As 2021 dawned , the government announced an £ 80m investment in drug treatment in England . Targeted at reducing crime , its ‘ system-
wide approach ’ would include funding naloxone provision for ‘ every heroin user in the country that needs it ’. Partnerships with police teams and custody suites were encouraging police officers to carry kits .
Scotland swiftly followed with a pledge of £ 250m to tackle its record high rates of drugrelated deaths and would use some of the money to widen naloxone distribution . A Stop the Deaths campaign included a dedicated website where people could order kits , and Police Scotland confirmed that officers right across Scotland would be equipped with naloxone .
FURTHER PROVISION Alongside the government ’ s announcement that 50 of England ’ s most deprived areas would receive significantly more funding came the opportunity to further widen naloxone provision in 2022 , and the ACMD identified a key role for community pharmacies . Scotland ’ s Drugs Death Taskforce said developing the world ’ s most extensive naloxone network was still a key aim in a very necessary public health approach .
As we entered 2023 the SDF shared evaluation of pilot peer-to-peer programmes in three settings – one urban , one rural and one in prison – which showed the power of peer involvement in saving lives with naloxone . Reporting on initiatives from across the UK in DDN has confirmed the essential role of peers , right up to inspirational presentations at the DDN conference .
As we commemorate another Overdose Awareness Day there is much to acknowledge – the millionth injectable naloxone kit being distributed to save yet another life – yet still much to do . There are still too many people who have never heard of naloxone , let alone been trained in what to do with it . Do you carry a kit ? DDN
This article has been produced with support from an educational grant provided by Ethypharm , which has not influenced the content in any way .