Scotland’s drug deaths: Scottish Government increased provision of Naloxone in West Lothian

The newly elected government has released funds to West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service to appoint a Naloxone Champion.

By Shona Elliott
Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 10:40 am

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It is hoped that this will help address and reduce drug-related deaths both locally and nationally through increasing the provision of Naloxone.

Naloxone is a medication used to block the effects of opioid drugs such as heroin and methadone. It can temporarily reverse the effect of opioids if somebody overdoses.

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Latest figures show that there were 1264 drug deaths in 2019 – a rise of six per cent from the year before.

This funding comes after figures from the National Records of Scotland show that there 1264 Scots died from drugs in 2019.

Across Scotland, drug-related deaths have increased by six per cent compared to the previous year, the highest death rate in Europe and three and a half times higher than that of the UK as a whole.

During the election campaign Nicola Sturgeon admitted that her SNP government took its "eye off the ball" with regard to the drug deaths across the country.

The government has been working through the Scottish Drugs Forum, to improve the provision of Naloxone and it rolled out training in February 2021.

General Manager at West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service Brian Pringle said Naloxone is a valuable preventative tool.

He said: “Drug-related deaths have a devastating toll on individuals, families and the wider community.

“Naloxone is an effective way to reduce these deaths, so we are delighted to provide organisations, with the training to supply and administer Naloxone as needed in their line of work.

“It’s a valuable tool for all organisations and front-line services. We want to get Naloxone out to as many people as possible in West Lothian.”

The service's lead worker Thomas Oswald has been NHS trained to train the trainer level which allows him to train others to supply or administer Naloxone.

This training is available free to any organisations and individuals in contact with people who use drugs, or their families and friends, and consists of locally developed training combined with online training from the Scottish Drugs Forum.

So far he has trained 45 individuals and eight organisations to administer and supply Naloxone since February 2021. Due to Covid-19, the training is currently being provided virtually, but will be able to be delivered face to face when restrictions ease.

Project manager at Community Action Blackburn Lisa Drinnan attended this training and said it provided “valuable practical advice”.

She said: “We would highly recommend the course to other community organisations. As a local community-led and run charity, it gives us the knowledge and confidence to raise awareness of Naloxone and to help support individuals, their families, friends and carers to prevent drugs-related deaths in Blackburn.”

Other frontline workers have benefited from this training including Helen Davis, project director at Youth Action Project.

She said: “The training provided was informative, detailed but succinct and to the point. The subject matter is never easy to discuss, as opiate use evokes many emotions, however, the training provided increased our knowledge of how straightforward it is to administer Naloxone to a person who has overdosed, reducing the risk of death.

“We consider it vital as a community based agency and individuals to have access to Naloxone kits.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There are no simple or quick solutions to the complex and longstanding issues related to drug use, but we’ve committed additional investment of £250 million over the next five years to address problem substance use and reduce drug-related deaths.

“We will continue to support and promote any approaches that have a strong evidence base that may be able to help save lives. This includes widening distribution and access to the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone and we are currently funding a range of initiatives across the country to do just this. The introduction of a Naloxone Champion in West Lothian will be beneficial in this regard.”

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