Drug deaths: Majority of at risk Scots have received opioid overdose reversal treatment

About 60 per cent of people who are at risk of an opioid overdose in Scotland have received specialist treatment to prevent a potentially fatal outcome, a report has shown.

Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 3:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 3:34 pm

Naloxone is a drug which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose while also providing time for emergency services to give further treatment.

The drug is currently rolled out in the form of take-home naloxone (THN) kits which are distributed by pharmacies, services in the community, prisons, NHS Boards and the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS).

According to a Public Health Scotland report issued on Tuesday, the “reach” – the proportion of a population at risk of harm from opioid overdose who have received THN treatment – was estimated to be 59.17% by June.

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Police Scotland officers have received training in how to use life-saving Naloxone spray.

The recent figure is an increase of about 1.5% compared to the period between January and March this year.

Scotland’s record of drug-related deaths has been described as an “undoubted crisis” – with a record 1,339 fatalities recorded in 2020.

Last week, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC said fresh consideration could be given to the establishment of safe drug consumption rooms.

She told MSPs that any plans for such a facility would have to be “precise, detailed, specific and underpinned by evidence” before this could happen.

Between April and 30 June this, 5,363 THN kits were issued in total, the PHS report said.

Of these, 4,049 were distributed by services based in the community which was 36% higher than the period between January and March (2,985).

The figure, however, was 19% lower than in the same period last year (5,018), when lockdown measures were in force throughout Scotland.

In 84% of the cases receiving treatment in the community, 72% were male, 24% were aged 45 years or over, 43% were aged 35 to 44 years, 27% were aged 25-34 years and 5% were under 25 years of age.

The PHS data showed the number of THN kits issued on prison release in 2020/21 was 1,240 – the highest annual total observed since the National Naloxone Programme began in 2011.

The report said the increase could be associated with Scottish Prison Service’s Covid Early Release Scheme – where low risk prisoners were released temporarily – and the impact of the pandemic.

It added the number of kits being issued on release from prison custody has increased year on year since 2017/18, which may reflect longer term trends.

Between April and June this year, 364 kits issued by prisons were supplied to individuals at risk of opioid overdose of which 79% were male and a quarter (15%) were under 25 years of age, according to the report.

In the same period, 752 kits were dispensed by community pharmacies, a 35% decrease in the number distributed in the period between January and March this year (1,153).

The report, however, did point to “noteworthy changes” in the number of THN kits handed out by pharmacies between April and June this year.

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde dispensed 133 THN kits, a decrease of 84% compared to the beginning of 2021.

Due to operational pressures, Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) were only able to provide data for April and May during which it supplied 158 kits, the report said.

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