Show/hide main menu


News Highlights

Experts welcome new guidance on take-home opiate antidote

Posted on 06/11/2014

Writing in The BMJ this week, Professor John Strang from the National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) and the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust, and a group of international colleagues, welcome new World Health Organization guidance recommending that patients, families and other non-medics who may come into contact with heroin addicts should carry the drug naloxone, an antidote for opiate overdose. The authors say that while more research is vital, the move will help save lives.

An estimated 69,000 people worldwide die from opiate overdose each year. Of nearly 3000 drug related deaths registered in England in 2013, more than half (56%) involved opioids. Last month, Scotland (the first country to introduce a national programme to provide naloxone) released results showing a marked reduction in opioid overdose deaths among people just released from prison (a particularly high risk group) from 9.8% (193/1970) in 2006-10 to 4.7% (18/383) in 2013.

Based on research from the National Addiction Centre at the IoPPN, the new guidelines recommend training in emergency resuscitation after an opioid overdose – including giving naloxone - for both medical and non-medical first responders.

Schemes to make naloxone available are being implemented around the world, explain the authors. Scotland's national take-home naloxone programme began in 2011, with Wales's scheme starting the same year. City and state schemes have recently started in parts of North America, Europe, and Australia. Various countries have also clarified the legal status of resuscitation actions by members of the public, including administration of naloxone, with the intention of saving life.

Reports of lives saved are plentiful. However, research on its impact on the number of deaths from overdose is scarce, say the authors. 

So how should this innovative approach be taken forward?

Any patient known to be at high risk of death from overdose should carry emergency naloxone, they suggest, “especially at times when contact with treatment or care is associated with transient increased risk.”

Settings in which people are known to be at high risk (probation hostels; homeless shelters) need naloxone, while critical periods of time (after prison, detoxification, residential rehabilitation, and hospital discharge) need specific attention, they add. 

Naloxone also needs to be available to families and peers, hostel staff, police officers, and firefighters.

Further studies need to be done alongside investigations into optimal dose, comparative routes of administration, and exploration of better mechanisms for wider use of naloxone, say the authors.  “These studies are vital, but they must not delay implementation. While we dither, people will die from overdose,” they conclude.

Paper reference: John Strang, Sheila M Bird, Paul Dietze, Gilberto Gerra, A Thomas McLellan “Take-home emergency naloxone to prevent deaths from heroin overdose” published in The BMJ

For more information or to contact the author please contact Louise Pratt, PR & Comms Manager, IoPPN, KCL on +44 (0)207 848 5378,  mobile +44 (0)7850 919 020 or email: 

News Highlights:

News Highlights...RSS FeedAtom Feed

Professor Til Wykes receives Equality of Opportunity Award

Professor Til Wykes receives Equality of Opportunity Award

Professor Til Wykes, Vice-Dean of Psychology and Systems Sciences and Professor of Clinical Psychology and Rehabilitation at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), has been awarded the British Psychological Society (BPS)'s Award for Promoting Equality of Opportunity.
Babies' interest in human faces linked to callous and unemotional traits

Babies' interest in human faces linked to callous and unemotional traits

Scientists at King's College London, the University of Manchester, and the University of Liverpool have found that an infant's preference for a person's face, rather than an object, is associated with lower levels of callous and unemotional behaviours in toddlerhood.
Centre for Global Mental Health celebrates 5th anniversary

Centre for Global Mental Health celebrates 5th anniversary

On World Mental Health Day 2014, the Centre for Global Mental Health is celebrating its 5th anniversary. Since its launch, the CGMH has focused on generating knowledge about mental disorders, improving access to care, building capacity and engaging policy makers.
Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions  Privacy policy  Accessibility  Modern slavery statement  Contact us

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454