Naloxone: What is it?

Naloxone is an antidote to treat those who are overdosing from heroin or other opioids. The drug works by discharging the opioid out of receptors from the brain, reversing any respiratory depression the drug had induced.

It has been used in hospitals for countless years, and there are now a number of distribution programs being run by participating countries and organizations in an attempt to implement more harm reduction techniques. The drug costs less than a dollar to make and is proving every day to be more and more successful.

Training on how to use naloxone is very easy to give, and is argued that it can take from ten minutes to one hour to complete.

There are a vast amount of countries that have introduced the new initiative including India, Russia, China, Australia, the USA, Canada and more close to home, Scotland who in 2011-2012 began their national ‘take home’ naloxone kit programme. In this first year 3,445 kits were issued. 715 naloxone kits were issued to prisoners on their release dates and 2,730 being issued within the community.

From these 2,730 kits, 2,370 were issued directly to the person at risk. 2,287 of these kits were a ‘first supply’, 348 were a ‘repeat supply’ and with 95 kits, it was unknown. It is worthy to not however, for 159 cases of the repeat supply, the reason given was the previous kit was lost.

In the case of prison-issued kits, it is estimated that out of 19,792 liberations in the year, 7,125 of prisoners liberated were using opioids on admission. Giving an approximation of 100 kits issued per 1,000 of those liberations.

The first year of this harm reduction initiative has deemed to be very successful, and in this first year, the programme had received the backing of 13 out of 14 NHS boards within Scotland. The annual report on the programme for the second year is not yet out, but it looks to be another successful year for this harm-reduction initiative.

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