Scottish Government pushes for permanent naloxone expansion to help tackle drug death crisis

The Scottish Government is pushing for the expansion of distribution for a life-saving anti-overdose treatment to be made permanent.

During the pandemic, changes to guidelines by the Lord Advocate allowed naloxone to be given to the families of problem drug users and staff in non-drugs services, such as emergency service workers, in an effort to limit the number of overdoses.

Scotland is currently struggling with a drug death crisis, with recent figures showing 1,339 people died from drugs in 2020 – the highest death rate in Europe.

Naloxone functions by rapidly reversing opioid overdoses.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, naloxone was only available by prescription or through some drug treatment services, but a UK-wide consultation launched on Wednesday is seeking views on permanently expanding the distribution of the medicine.

Current proposals would provide the drug to those in non-drug services, but the consultation asks for suggestions of who else should be included on the list.

Drug minister Angela Constance said: “We are pleased to be part of this UK-wide consultation, but we are anxious to see what is being proposed go further to allow not just drug and emergency services to legally supply naloxone, but also non-drugs services, families of those affected by drug use, and anyone else who is likely to witness an overdose.

“We have called on the UK Government to make these changes permanent, ensuring all people who need it have access to this life-saving drug.

“So I am asking all those affected by drug use, whether you use drugs, have a family member who does, or you have contact with someone at risk, through your work to please take the opportunity to have your say.

“We have seen fast and bold action being taken by ‘non-drug services’ to access naloxone to protect those most at risk.

“One of them is Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, who with the support of the Scottish Drugs Forum set up a click-and-deliver service which has now been supplying kits to those who need them for over a year.

“Naloxone is one of a wide range of measures being used to address the public health emergency of drugs deaths, but it plays an important role and allows those supplying the kits to connect people who use drugs and their families with appropriate local services.

“Seeing those services and individuals being unable to continue to access the medication would be truly devastating.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andrew Milligan / PA.