It’s International Overdose Awareness Day
Today is International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held on 31st August each year that aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends, remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.
- Globally, approximately 187,000 people die every year from drug overdose.
- There were 3,346 drug poisoning deaths registered in England and Wales in 2014, the highest since comparable records began in 1993.
- Deaths involving heroin and/or morphine increased by almost two-thirds between 2012 and 2014, from 579 to 952 deaths.
Overdose Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.
Blenheim have been working with a number of organisations to develop a campaign under the banner of Naloxone Action Group England (NAG England).
The aim is to try and ensure that naloxone (the medicine that reverses opiate overdoses) is more widely available among those most at risk, their friends, family and first responders. Over half of the overdose deaths in 2014 were as a result of heroin and other opioid drugs. Many may have been avoided had naloxone been more widely available to those most at risk, their friends, family and first responders.
From the 1 October 2015, naloxone became more readily available for those that need it. Although naloxone remains a prescription only medicine, the legislative change crucially means that people working in drug treatment services are able to supply the drug, without a prescription, to anyone needing it to stop a heroin overdose.
Therefore, as long as the supply is suitably recorded, it can be supplied without prescription to:
- someone who is using or has previously used opiates (illicit or prescribed) and is at potential risk of overdose
- a carer, family member or friend liable to be on hand in case of overdose
- a named individual in a hostel (or other facility where drug users gather and might be at risk of overdose), which could be
- a manager or other staff
Blenheim welcomes this change in legislation. However, there is some way to go to ensure that those at risk of overdose have access to this lifesaving medicine.
Blenheim continue to campaign with Naloxone Action Group England to ensure that naloxone is available to the people that need it.
NAG England calls on:
- The Department of Health to implement a national programme to ensure that take-home naloxone is made available to those vulnerable to opioid overdose, as well as those likely to be present, such as family members and carers.
- Public Health England to make every effort to encourage local authority areas to make the availability of naloxone and accompanying training a priority, and to monitor and report on activity.
- For public health teams in local authorities to commission services in line with the recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the ACMD on the community management of overdose. For example, the World Health Organisation (WHO) have specifically recommended that people likely to witness an opioid overdose should have access to naloxone and be instructed in its administration to enable them to use it for the emergency management of suspected opioid overdose.