Heroin overdose antidote will help reduce deaths

About 600 heroin users are to be given a life-saving antidote in cases of overdoses, under a HSE project aimed at reducing drug deaths.

Drug users and those close to them have been trained on how to administer naloxone — which comes in a pre-filled syringe — and to recognise the signs of overdose.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Drugs Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin welcomed the confirmation by the HSE that naloxone was going to be made available from today on prescription.

The Irish Examiner reported on Wednesday that HSE drug and alcohol service had made the decision.

In a statement, Mr Varadkar and junior minister Mr Ó Ríordáin said naloxone was an antidote used to reverse the effects of opioid drugs if someone overdosed.

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They said that the HSE was undertaking a demonstration project to assess and evaluate the suitability and impact of using a pre-filled Naloxone injection.

The project involves 600 opiate users receiving take-home naloxone on prescription. It will also include those recently released from custody who have been identified as at high risk of opioid overdose. These drug users and those close to them have been trained on how to administer naloxone and to recognise the signs of an overdose.

“This project could make an enormous difference when it comes to reducing drug-related deaths,” said Mr Varadkar.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said: “I have no doubt that lives will be saved as a result of this initiative.”

A total of 350 people died in 2012 as a result of the toxic effects of one or more drugs and 220 of these deaths involved opiates, including heroin and methadone.

The project will start in Dublin City Centre, Dublin North/South, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford.

Ana Liffey Drug Project’s Tony Duffin said: “There is the equivalent of a fatal overdose every day in Ireland. The HSE is working with Ana Liffey and other agencies to provide naloxone to a group of intravenous drug users who are at significant risk of overdose.”

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