Belfast Telegraph

Almost 20 lives a year saved by anti-overdose medication

Almost 20 lives a year are saved by the anti-overdose medication naloxone, new figures from the Public Health Agency have shown.

The drug is targeted at preventing opioid-related overdoses, which includes heroin and certain types of prescription medication, and since 2012 it has been used on 112 occasions, with 98 of these being successful.

The biggest dangers for opioid users are infection from blood-born viruses through sharing needles and injecting equipment, and through accidental overdose.

Naloxone works by temporarily reversing the effects of an overdose, restoring normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed down or stopped.

The drug was introduced as part of the Department of Health's strategy to tackle issues around substance abuse in Northern Ireland, with the overdose-combating medication being made available to high-risk individuals.

The drug is funded by the Public Health Agency with support from the Health and Social Care Board.

Speaking about the need for the drug, the Public Health Agency's health and social wellbeing improvement senior officer Victoria Creasy said: "While only a very small portion of the population here use heroin or other opiate type drugs, those people who do are at a high risk of illness or death.

"It is therefore important that we look at ways that we can reduce the danger that these people face."

She added that another thing that her organisation were doing to save lives was offering needle exchange services.

Since 2012, the 'Take Home Naloxone' programme has been available to anyone at risk of overdosing on opiates, and as of the end of March 2017, 1,250 packs have been supplied to people at risk.

For each successful naloxone overdose reversal, £244 is spent on medication.

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