Naloxone heroin overdose reversal kits trial expanded

Syringe and heroin powder
Image caption The scheme giving Naloxone kits to drug abusers will be expanded across Wales

A kit that has helped more than 50 drug abusers in Wales survive a heroin overdose will be given to more addicts.

The Take Home Naloxone Rescue Scheme was tested in Welsh prisons and areas with a high number of drug-related deaths and near fatal poisonings.

Communities Minister Carl Sargeant has expanded the initiative across Wales.

Clive Wolfendale, of north Wales drug and alcohol agency Cais, welcomed the announcement and said: "Without question, it has saved lives already."

The Take Home Naloxone (THN) project was launched in August 2009, giving heroin users, their friends and carers a basic first aid training on how to handle an overdose.

Individual users were given a kit to take home and use, if needed.

In addition, to the prisons, the project was run in Cardiff and Swansea as well as areas of north Wales, and the south east valleys.

Wales has around 20,000 problem drugs users, according to Welsh Government figures.

The International Centre for Drugs Policy 102 illicit drugs-related deaths recorded in Wales in 2009, up from 61 in 2006.

Naloxone is an opiate antagonist - which blocks the effects of drugs such as heroin - and the kits aim to provide more time for an ambulance to be called and treatment to be given.

Welsh Government figures showed 684 Naloxone kits have been given out, with 51 being used to reverse an opiate overdose.

Mr Wolfendale, who was acting chief constable of North Wales Police before taking over at charity Cais in 2009, said it had role to play in reducing the number of drug-related deaths in Wales.

He said: "The benefits in terms of reversing potentially fatal situations has been known about for some time.

"The pilot scheme is designed to give heroin users their own kids so they can self-administer in the event of a crisis situation. The feedback from users is 'so far, so good'.

"Most drug users have a very difficult plight. They would not be doing it otherwise. But they are extremely attuned to their own body.

Image caption The scheme has been criticised elsewhere as implicitly encouraging drug us.

"They know very quickly when something is going wrong."

Naloxone has also been tested in Scotland, where it has attracted controversy with critics claiming it implies an acceptance of continuing drug use.

Mr Wolfendale said: "What we are trying to do is get people off drugs and not perpetuate the situation.

"The alternative is that they are found dead in bed or in a park or in the street.

"They can, with the right support, live productive and happy lives and not be a burden on anybody.

"That's much better than being on benefits and stealing to feed a drug habit and taking them through the criminal justice system and social exclusion.

"Just condemning them to a life or death situation when a remedy is available is not defensible in any sort of society that Wales wants to be."

A total of £55,000 has been set aside to ensure that Naloxone training and kits is available across Wales by December 2011.

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