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Initiative aims to reduce opiate deaths in Norfolk

People in Norfolk who use opiates now have better access to a potentially life-saving antidote thanks to an initiative designed to reduce the number of people dying from overdoses across the county. 

Since being introduced in October 2015, Norfolk Recovery Partnership (NRP) has issued 200 Naloxone kits and has received feedback that these kits have been used on six different occasions to assist with saving someone’s life.

NRP provides service users, their families and hostel staff take-home kits of the naloxone antidote, which is used when people have taken too much heroin and other opiates.

Many opiate overdoses are accidental and occur because of unknown purity of heroin, other substances, a lack or loss of tolerance to opiates following detoxification or being in prison. By providing people with the drug, along with training in how to administer it, NRP hopes to reduce the number of people dying prematurely from an overdose each year.

The move was introducted after legislation about the way the drug is supplied was changed on 1 October. It can now be issued without a prescription by drug treatment services, such as NRP, which is a partnership of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, The Matthew Project and the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPt).

Chris Strivens Deputy Service Manager of NRP, said: “Statistics show that people who use opiates illicitly are 10 times more likely to die than their peers, while almost 1,000 people die prematurely in the UK because of opiate overdose each year.

“Many of these deaths are witnessed by other people, and could therefore be avoided if the right medication was available to help. We hope that by supplying these kits to service users, their families and other key people, like hostel staff, we will be able to make sure anyone who has overdosed gets the antidote they need as quickly as possible, in turn saving lives.”

Symptoms of an opiate overdose include small pupils, slow noisy breathing, pale skin with a blue tinge, no response to noise or touch and complete lack of consciousness. Anyone who suspects someone has overdosed should administer the antidote quickly and call an ambulance.