The Government is proposing to make a life-saving medicine that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose more widely available to frontline staff who have regular contact with drug users.
It has launched an eight-week consultation on making naloxone more widely available under new plans to tackle record levels of drug-related deaths.
The proposals would see UK regulations amended to allow the drug to be administered by groups including the police, paramedics, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, prison officers and in homelessness services.
And it would mean they can hand out the medication not only to those in crisis, but also to vulnerable people in the event of any future emergency.
Figures published on Tuesday show that drug-related deaths in England and Wales are at their highest level for more than a quarter of a century.
There were 4,561 deaths related to drug poisoning registered in England and Wales in 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Around half (2,263) involved an opiate.
Last month the Government launched a new joint combating drugs unit and committed to publishing a drugs strategy later this year.
It follows an independent review by Dame Carol Black which included more than 30 recommendations to help overcome drug harm and called for significant investment in England’s treatment and recovery system.
We are launching a consultation to supply frontline workers with a life-saving overdose drug.
The consultation proposes amending current regulations to allow naloxone to be supplied & administered by a wider group of people who come into contact with drug users.
More info ⬇️
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) August 3, 2021
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Drug misuse destroys lives and has a devastating impact on people’s health, their livelihoods and their families.
“To prevent people dying from drug abuse we need to make sure the right treatment and medicines are available, which is why we’re launching this consultation on naloxone today.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel added: “Allowing police officers and other frontline workers to carry naloxone would mean more lives are saved from this terrible scourge and I am delighted to support the Health and Social Care Secretary in this work as part of a whole-of-Government effort to drive down drug misuse.
“At the same time we will continue to clamp down on criminal gangs by actively disrupting supply chains which fuel illegal markets, support people through treatment and recovery, and rid communities of the harm drug misuse causes.”
Naloxone can be administered by anyone during an emergency through a prescription, but its supply is tightly controlled and only commissioned drug treatment services can supply it without a prescription or other written authorisation.
The consultation will seek views on the viability of the proposals and suggestions of any further groups or services that should be included.