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30/07/13 09:55

Reducing opiate overdose deaths

Increase in kits issued through Scottish Government’s national naloxone programme.

Official figures, which show an increase of almost 11 per cent in the number of naloxone kits issued in Scotland to reduce fatal opiate overdoses, have been welcomed by the Scottish Government.

Scotland became the first country in the world to introduce a national naloxone programme in November 2010, which is centrally co-ordinated and funded by the Scottish Government.

This enables appropriately trained individuals, families and friends to reverse an opiate overdose by administering naloxone, providing more time for an ambulance to arrive.

Today’s ISD Scotland figures show that 3,833 ‘take home’ naloxone kits were issued in 2012-13, an increase of 375 or 10.8 per cent compared to 2011-12, the first year of the programme.

Visiting the New Horizons Project in Easterhouse today, which offers support for a range of issues affecting those with drug and alcohol problems, Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said:

“We are committed to tackling Scotland’s long legacy of drug use through our drugs strategy, the Road to Recovery, and are investing record resources to improve frontline services, get more people into treatment earlier, and help people recover from problem drug use.

“While drug use among the general adult population and young people has decreased, there remains an older group of people with problem drug use who now also face a range of other health problems – placing them at increased risk of overdose and death. We are determined to tackle this issue and support these vulnerable people. The naloxone programme is a key part of this.

“While not a solution to drug deaths in itself, this programme is an important intervention within a range of available treatment and support, which can help reduce harm and support people towards recovery.

“That is why we are committed to increasing the availability of take-home naloxone kits and undertaking robust monitoring and evaluation to enable us to measure the effectiveness of this programme in the longer term.”

Dr Carole Hunter, Chair of the National Naloxone Advisory Group (NNAG) said:

"The NNAG is delighted by the way that all partners in the delivery of the national programme continue to work together to increase awareness and the number of supplies of naloxone available in the community. National and local staff involved and particularly the local naloxone leads are to be commended for their commitment and enthusiasm, as without this it would not be possible to deliver a nationwide programme. Since its inception in 2010 there has been ever increasing numbers of reports of uses of naloxone and these personal stories serve as a reminder of how important this programme is for drug users and their families. It is particularly heartening to see the way that the programme has allowed former and current drug users to be empowered to play an active part in preventing overdose deaths.”

Andrew McAuley, Public Health Adviser for Substance Misuse, NHS Health Scotland said:

“The Scottish national naloxone programme, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, is an important development in preventing drug-related deaths for some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society. The results published today highlight that strong progress on implementing the programme across the country has been maintained over the past year, with increasing numbers of naloxone supplied to those most at risk of opiate overdose and hundreds of lives potentially saved as a result.

“The on-going commitment and dedication from a range of individuals at policy, practice and service-user level has been fundamental to this success, and will continue to be key as the programme develops over time.”

Notes to editors

For further information on today’s statistics see:

Between 2010/11 and 2013/14, more than £1m of Scottish Government funding has been made available for the national naloxone programme. This funds a national coordinator and peer educator based at the Scottish Drugs Forum, support to Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and Health Boards in the development of their local naloxone programmes, national communications materials, reimbursement for naloxone kits issued and a robust monitoring and evaluation programme.

Scotland’s naloxone programme was described in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy Journal (August 2012) as ‘a landmark public health programme’ and ‘one of the most important public health interventions to emerge aimed at tackling rising Drug-Related Deaths’.

For more information on Scotland’s national naloxone programme see:

New Horizon is a community rehabilitation service directly provided by Glasgow City Council's Social Work Services. Glasgow City Council and local health partners have been involved in developing the use of naloxone in Scotland since 2006 after establishing and operating a successful pilot programme.