The Australian Capital Territory’s innovative opioid overdose management program, which makes take-home naloxone available to potential opioid overdose victims, has been overwhelmingly endorsed by an independent evaluation supported by Burnet Institute.
The evaluation report, co-authored by Professor Paul Dietze, Head, Alcohol and Other Drug Research in the Centre for Population Health, shows that take-home naloxone, a Schedule 4 medicine that reverses the effect of heroin and other opioid drug overdoses, saves lives.
The first of its kind in Australia, the ACT program has been operating since 2011. It involves training in opioid overdose management and the prescription and supply of naloxone to eligible participants, usually drug users, their partners, family and friends, who are not health professionals.
“Canberra has led Australia by implementing a program that trains potential overdose witnesses in basic life support and provides take-home naloxone,” Professor Dietze said.
“Naloxone is a medicine that has just one effect: it starts people breathing again after an overdose. It saves lives.”
The report found there were 57 overdose reversals using program-issued naloxone during the evaluation period.
The evaluators, Dr Anna Olsen (Australian National University), Professor Simon Lenton (National Drug Research Institute, Curtain University), David McDonald (Australian National University) and Professor Dietze, recommend not only that the program should continue, but that take-home naloxone programs be introduced Australia-wide.
“There is considerable momentum around take-home naloxone (THN) in Australia presenting possibilities for a national approach to naloxone training and provision,” the report states.
“There is clear national and international evidence for the wider distribution of naloxone to laypersons in order to reduce harm and death from overdose and support for THN programs is growing in Australia.
“Our report indicates that THN programs are feasible and successful in the Australian context providing the foundation for expanded approaches to naloxone provision across the nation.”
The report is to be launched by ACT Health Minister Simon Corbell in Canberra to coincide with International Overdose Awareness Day, which falls on August 31 each year.