Drug-related overdoses and other forms of avoidable mortality associated with drug use are a major concern for the national drugs strategy. This is where the greatest share of health costs associated with drug use arises and where the largest potential benefits from effective intervention can be achieved. The provision of targeted preventative responses for drug users vulnerable to overdose is thus a key objective of the strategy, in order to reduce drug-related deaths.
Naloxone is an antidote used to reverse the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, morphine and methadone, if someone overdoses. In 2015 the HSE established a Naloxone Demonstration Project, which involved 600 patients receiving take-home Naloxone and the provision of training to lay persons, such as the family and friends of a drug user, in the administration of a Naloxone injection to overdose victims.
The demonstration project prevented many fatal overdoses for the individuals involved. The HSE is working to expand the Naloxone programme and will work on training more people in the use of Naloxone, increasing its accessibility and availability.
Naloxone is a prescription-only medicine that ordinarily can only be supplied on foot of a prescription. There is nothing to prevent a doctor from carrying this medicine, and similarly the friends and family of someone at risk from an overdose, if it has been prescribed to the person at risk. The HSE report no difficulties with the prescribing practice associated with the programme.
I am committed to expanding the availability of Naloxone to people who use drugs, their peers and family members.