Australia21 congratulates our colleagues at the Penington Institute on the release of their latest report Saving lives: Australian naloxone access model, launched by the Minister for Health the Hon Greg Hunt MP at Parliament House Canberra on 19 September 2018.
Each year around 1100 Australians die from opioid overdoses – mostly from legal painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine and fentanyl. This death toll exceeds the road toll and is higher than that seen at the height of the heroin epidemic in the late ’90s.
The Penington Institute says many of these deaths could be avoided, if family or friends of the victims were able to administer a shot of the reversal medication naloxone.
The Institute’s report calls for naloxone kits to be made available free to people who are likely to experience or witness an overdose.
CEO John Ryan says naloxone is vital, ‘a silver bullet’ in a crisis, but it is not getting into the hands of those who need it.
“We absolutely want to turn the tide on opioid overdose deaths. Naloxone is a remarkable medication which can save many more lives in every corner of the country. Obviously if people cannot get access to it or can’t afford it, we simply aren’t going to get anywhere.”
The report recommends these key actions:
- Boost public awareness of naloxone.
- Provide the medication free-of-charge through key distribution points (e.g. needle and syringe programs, mental health services, pharmacies and hospital emergency departments).
- Ensure priority people have easy access to naloxone. These people include: people who inject drugs, people prescribed strong opioids, soon-to-be released prison inmates, and the friends and family of people who use opioids.
- Ensure the medication is available via intra-nasal spray.
- Train people so they know how to use naloxone.
- Authorise more professions, such as nurses and pharmacy staff, to supply the medication to achieve national consistency.
Unlike other drug treatments, naloxone cannot be used to get high.
The report is available from the Penington Institute at http://www.penington.org.au/report-naloxone-access/.