Naloxone is a life-saving drug which is one of a wide range of measures used to address the public health emergency of drugs deaths in Scotland.
Last year, restrictions imposed because of Covid-19 limited the ability of drug treatment services to supply naloxone for people at risk and those close to them. Pre-Covid, the supply of naloxone kits to family members was via a treatment service or pharmacy. However, during the pandemic in Scotland, families of those who use drugs, as well as a wide range of professionals who work in non-drugs services, have been allowed to legally supply take-home naloxone kits to anyone likely to witness an overdose. This was made possible after a change in guidelines issued by the Lord Advocate.
Many actions have been taken for the first time during 2021 to widen the use of naloxone, including a pilot project in which police officers have been carrying and administering naloxone. I am keen to see more police officers carrying naloxone kits as quickly as possible. At the Scottish Ambulance Service, more than two thirds of clinicians have now been trained in supplying take-home naloxone (THN) kits to people who may witness an overdose.
In addition, Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) are working in partnership with the Scottish Government to run a national multimedia, multiplatform campaign about naloxone. It started on International Overdose Awareness Day 2021 and will run until November 2021. We want to change attitudes to naloxone to make it “everybody’s responsibility” rather than limit work to emergency respondents and drug services. Our approach is to widen the access to naloxone as much as possible to services, organisations and individuals. This includes those not in contact with services at risk of overdose and those who can witness an overdose. We know that more than half of people at risk are not making use of drug services. This has to change.
We want to change attitudes to naloxone to make it “everybody’s responsibility”
From all my experience in Government and as a front-line social worker I know that the third sector can connect with people who statutory services might struggle to reach. As we have seen during the pandemic, the third sector can react quickly and flexibly and it is often the place where innovation can be led from the front. This is exemplified by Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs national naloxone click and deliver service.
SDF have also developed a national take-home naloxone programme overseeing implementation of innovative approaches - such as training people in peer overdose prevention and naloxone administration techniques. The addition of prison-based peer networks has brought a new dimension to the peer programme and widened access to naloxone for people who may be at higher risk of overdose on release.
Many people may think: 'why do I need to carry naloxone?' Wherever we go, everywhere we go, we will see and maybe know people who use drugs. The more we look the more we see. I wish I’d had the opportunity to carry naloxone when I worked in prisons and communities. If there is a chance we can save someone, why wouldn’t we?
Angela Constance MSP is Minister for Drugs Policy in the Scottish Government
To access online Naloxone training please visit Scottish Drugs Forum Learning website. If you think your organisation would benefit from Naloxone kits and SG registration please contact your local Naloxone lead. If you are unsure who this is please contact Scottish Drugs Forum.