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4 November 2019

New project to increase the availability of life saving drug naloxone in the North East

A new project is aiming to drastically increase the availability of the life saving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone in the North East of England. 

On Monday 4th November 2019, drug and alcohol charity Addaction’s service in Redcar and Cleveland is teaming up with independent Trainer and Consultant George Charlton to launch a new project called ‘Peer to peer naloxone’. 

‘Peer to peer naloxone’ is a  model for naloxone distribution which doesn’t rely on people accessing drug treatment services. In the project a team of ‘peers’ (people with lived experience of drug issues) will proactively take naloxone out on the streets, approaching people who use opiates. They will give out the drug and train people in how to use it there and then. The initial pilot will run for 12 weeks and is supported by Cleveland Police. Following the pilot, Addaction plans to roll out the scheme in all its services across the UK - the first national treatment charity to do so. 

The latest ONS statistics show drug related deaths in England and Wales are at record levels. There were 4,359 deaths in 2018 with the majority involving an opiate. The North East of England recorded 96.3 deaths per million people, the highest rate in England and Wales. Meanwhile, a 2017/18 report by charity Release found just 16% of people who use opiates had been given take home naloxone.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist. It works by rapidly binding to opioid receptors on the brain, preventing opiates from activating them. Anyone who overdoses on an opiate should still be seen by emergency services, but naloxone buys people vital time until that support arrives.

Gary Besterfield, Service Manager of Addaction Redcar and Cleveland, said: 

“Every drug related death is a tragedy and every death is avoidable. Too many families in Redcar and Cleveland have lost loved ones. It’s time to take action. 

“The opportunity to carry and use naloxone shouldn’t be restricted to people who are engaging in drug treatment. This is about being proactive, engaging people where they feel comfortable and saving lives.” 

Dr Rachel Britton, Director of Pharmacy at Addaction, said: 

“Naloxone is easy to use, relatively inexpensive and can be the difference between life and death. We know that people outside of structured drug treatment are most likely to die of a drug related cause so Peer to Peer naloxone is a no brainer. This is an exciting first step to the scheme being rolled across all of Addaction’s services.” 

Independent Trainer and Consultant George Charlton said: 

“Peer to peer naloxone is about more than not restricting naloxone to bricks and mortar. It’s about empowering people with a history of drug abuse to help their friends and show they have a positive role to play in society. When we use naloxone people get to see their kids grow up, they get to take care of the people they love. The only thing it enables is breathing.”

Media contact

Nye Jones

Media Officer