Pilot scheme to offer naloxone to reverse effects of drug overdose in relatives
"It virtually instantaneously reverses the overdose," said Professor John Strang, the director of the national addiction centre, at King's Health Partners in London, one of the new academic health sciences centres. "For many years ambulance crews have had it. This is the logical next step."
Surveys of families have revealed that about a quarter have at some time been present when a relative or partner has accidentally overdosed. At the moment, all they can do is ring for an ambulance and hope it arrives in time.
Strang's team asked families whether they would like to be taught how to deal with an overdose. "They virtually bit our hands off with enthusiasm," he said. "The results were so obvious you can't believe we haven't spotted this and introduced it years ago."
Naloxone is a non-toxic drug which has been available for years, meaning it is out of patent and therefore cheap. It would have to be used in enormous quantities to be harmful and does not cause dependency or induce euphoria.
The pilot is being rolled out by the government's National Treatment Agency for Substance Abuse (NTA).
The NTA chief executive, Paul Hayes, said: "This pioneering scheme has the potential to save lives as well as recognise the role of family members and carers in supporting their loved ones to overcome the harms of drug misuse.
"These pilots are part of a much wider drugs policy, which includes the need to reduce the harm caused by drug misuse. It is right that we should help families save lives, and offer drug treatment options so that users can overcome addiction."
Heroin kills users in disproportionate numbers to other drugs – about 1% of users a year – because of the young age group involved. Cocaine is used by 10 times more people but about 80% of deaths involve heroin or other opiates.
Naloxone works by "knocking all of the opiates off your receptors", Strang said. It brings people round from unconsciousness rapidly, but the opiates remain in their system and they still need medical attention.
Families will be given kits to enable them to inject naloxone into muscle, as well as training in when to use the drug.
Strang said one of the remaining problems was trying to persuade a pharmaceutical company to manufacture something like the EpiPen auto-injector given to people with epilepsy to make injection simpler.
Eddie Concannon, who runs Relatives of Drug Abusers, a support group in Sheffield, said he was keen to take part in the pilot so he could help if his 25-year-old son overdosed at home.
"He has been a drug user off and on since 1997, and when he's using it he is chaotic," Concannon said. "He lives on the street at the moment. He overdosed once, in the bathroom, and I've had calls from the hospital to say he is there after an overdose. It is a major worry for me. Having this kit around doesn't quell your fears, because they are always there, but it gives me a little bit of peace of mind that if it ever happened when he was under my roof I could do something."
Source - http://u.tv/News/Families-to-receiv...overdose/22bd3e64-8b81-4ffe-a3ec-eef0b54068bd