Access to take-home naloxone increased through paramedic supply

Ambulance paramedics are to supply to patients at risk of an opiate overdose take-home naloxone as part of a pilot scheme in Glasgow.

The three-month trial, funded by Scotland’s Drug Deaths Taskforce, will see those treated by paramedics for a non-fatal overdose who decline to attend hospitial, and their friends and family, given a naloxone kit – which temporarily reverses the effect of an opioid overdose.

Training will be given on how to use the medication in the hope that it can be used by in the event of any future overdose witnessed by the individual before the ambulance arrives, reducing the risk of potential death.

Five hundred kits have been provided to the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) for the Glasgow pilot.

The trial will be evaluated and, if successful, could be made permanent and extended to other areas of Glasgow and Scotland.

During a visit to SAS in Springburn, Public Health Minister, Joe FitzPatrick, said:

“This pilot scheme is one of a range of actions the Drug Deaths Taskforce is taking to address the public health emergency Scotland faces in terms of drug-related deaths.

“We know from the evidence that having naloxone available can and does save lives, but we also know from our database that around half of those whose death was drug-related had also suffered a non-fatal overdose at some point.

“Supplying naloxone kits through our teams of paramedics following a non-fatal overdose is just one more important action we can take to provide support to people at a time of crisis.”

Scottish Ambulance Service medical director, Jim Ward, said:

”We are committed to improving outcomes for all patients and our paramedics and ambulance clinicians often respond to emergencies to treat people who are experiencing an accidental overdose from drug use.

“This is a vital project that has the potential to help save lives – we are pleased that we will be on the front line in efforts to cut the death rate in Scotland from drug overdose, by offering this additional patient safety intervention.”

Scottish Drugs Forum’s Strategy Coordinator for Drug Death Prevention and lead of the Scottish National Naloxone Programme. Kirsten Horsburgh, said:

“This is a welcome development to Scotland’s national naloxone programme. SDF have advocated for ambulance service involvement in distributing kits for some time, due to the elevated risk of a drug-related death following a near-fatal overdose.

“SDF have provided training and guidance for this pilot, which will involve paramedics supplying take-home naloxone kits to people who decline transfer to hospital and also to those who are present at the scene, such as family members and friends.

“The provision of naloxone is only a small, but essential, part of an effective response to Scotland’s drug deaths crisis where the majority of fatalities involve opiates. Without the availability of naloxone, it is highly likely that the number of people dying from preventable overdoses would be even higher.”