Naloxone use not linked to ambulance call-outs

Researchers evaluating the impact of a programme aimed at reducing drug-related deaths have found no clear association with a decrease in ambulance attendance to overdoses.

A new drug programme is not linked to ambulance call-outs, research has found. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

The study, carried out by researchers from the NHS and Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian universites may help alleviate concerns the programme would lead to fewer attendances by emergency medical services at opioid-related overdose incidents.

The Scottish Government established a national naloxone programme (NNP) in 2010 aimed at reducing drug-related deaths by distributing ‘take home’ naloxone kits – a medication used to reverse the effects of opioids such as heroin or methadone in an overdose situation.

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However, there were concerns that if peer administration of naloxone was perceived to have successfully resuscitated the overdose victim, fewer drug-related overdoses would be attended by the emergency medical services.

The study found supply of these kits through the programme had no significant effect on ambulance attendance at overdose incidents in the four-year period after it was implemented.

Lead author Andrew McAuley said: “For the first time internationally, this study has dispelled the myth that ambulance attendance at overdose events would fall when people who inject drugs are supplied with naloxone for peer administration.

“Further research is required to understand individual experience of take-home naloxone and the factors that influence decision-making when deciding whether to call an ambulance or not.”

Drug-related deaths, particularly among people who inject opioids), continues to be a key public health issue, with rates in Scotland increasing over time and higher than in any other UK region.