The deaths of at least 20 addicts were prevented during the course of a ground-breaking new trial in which their friends and family were given the heroin 'antidote' naloxone and training in life-saving techniques to cope with overdose situations.
At 16 pilot sites around England, 495 carers were trained to respond to an overdose using basic life support techniques. Those at 15 sites were also trained to administer naloxone which reverses the effects of heroin and other opioids for long enough for medical help to arrive.
In a report issued today, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) said that during the trial (July 2009 to February 2010) and to date there have been 18 overdoses where carers used naloxone and two where they applied basic life support. All the drug users survived the overdose.
NTA chief executive Paul Hayes said: "Overdoses often occur when friends or family are near at hand and if they can be trained in how to manage such an emergency and keep the victim alive while waiting for the ambulance, potentially hundreds of lives could be saved in the UK every year.
"This project feeds into a key area of our work on preventing drug related deaths. We are also currently supporting local areas to improve the way they review and record such deaths to provide a more robust evidence base to help shape local policies on this important harm reduction and recovery issue."
The full report and supporting information, including advice for partnerships who want to set up local overdose training, can be found below:
NOTES TO EDITORS
About the NTA
The NTA is a special health authority which aims to improve the availability, capacity and effectiveness of drug treatment in England.
When it published the NHS white paper last year, the government announced that as part of the reforms proposed, the NTA would cease to exist as a separate organisation and its key functions would be transferred to a new national service, Public Health England (PHE).
The companion public health white paper subsequently made clear that reducing drug use, and enabling people to overcome dependency, recover fully and contribute to society, would be a key priority for this new public health service.
The Department of Health is now taking forward the transition to PHE, under which services will in future be commissioned by local authorities through Directors of Public Health, supported by Health & Wellbeing Boards.
During the interim period the NTA will drive the transformation from a 'treatment system' to a 'recovery system' to provide a solid foundation on which PHE can build.
For further information contact Miranda Askew, Senior Communications Officer Tel. 020 7972 1921 Email: email@example.com