14 May 2024

WithYou responds to expansion of access to life-saving opioid overdose treatment


Robin Pollard, Head of Policy at WithYou says:

“We welcome today’s announcement that the UK has adopted new legislation which will enable a number of additional services to supply naloxone without a prescription.

“Naloxone is a potentially life-saving drug that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. In 2022, there were 4,907 drug-related deaths registered in England and Wales, which is the highest number since records began. Opiates were involved in well over half of these, and so increasing access to naloxone plays a vital role in preventing drug-related harm and deaths. 

“Naloxone has been used for many years in emergency medical settings, and in recent years, it has become more widely available in community services to organisations with a prescribing licence. However, 50 percent of the opioid-related deaths recorded in 2022 were people who have either never been in treatment or who hadn’t been in treatment for very long. The new legislation helps to address this, as it enables a wider range of professionals, including police officers, social workers and registered pharmacy professionals, to issue naloxone to people at risk of harm.

“This is particularly important in the context of changing drug trends, as across the UK, we are continuing to see an increase in synthetic opioids being identified in illicit drug supplies. If a drug is contaminated with a synthetic opioid, it could have different effects, and so there is an increased risk of harm, overdose and death. Expanded naloxone provision, alongside a range of other harm reduction practices, will help us to save more lives in light of these concerning changes to the drug market. 

“We also welcome the announcement of a new 10-year plan to help rebuild the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery workforce. We know that recruiting and retaining a highly skilled and competent workforce is fundamental to the success of the drug strategy and to improving the quality of services. The steps outlined in this plan will help to deliver this. 

“To meet this ambition, it is now essential that there is a sustained long-term investment package for the duration of the drugs strategy to ensure these plans can be properly delivered and so more people can get the support they need.” 

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