Wales

Antidote helps drugs overdose deaths fall

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The number of heroin overdose deaths have dropped dramatically because of a rise in the availability of an antidote, a drugs charity has said.

Drug-related deaths in Wales has fallen by 30% over the last five years.

Naloxone, which temporarily reverses the effects of an opiate overdose, has been available through a Welsh government scheme since 2009.

Swansea-based charity Sands Cymru was one of the first agencies to call for Naloxone after a spike in deaths.

Its chief executive said the move is starting to show results.

"Giving out Naloxone to drug users is by far the most important development in trying to reduce the numbers of drug related deaths," said Ifor Glyn.

"In Swansea, over the years we have seen the deaths of so many users. At its worst there were about 20 deaths a year."

'Positive results'

The national Take Home Naloxone Programme provides the antidote to those thought to be at risk of opiate overdose, following training.

Training is available to family, friends, carers, partners and other people who are likely to be around if an overdose occurs.

It is also available in both the community and prisons.

"We were one of the first agencies to start pushing to get it in Wales," Mr Glyn said.

"Working with the police we started lobbying the Welsh government to produce Naloxone. All of a sudden, it appeared.

"The Welsh government has pushed it far more than they have in Scotland and England.

"It's showing some positive results. We are dispensing more Naloxone kits than anywhere else in Wales and we've used it about 25 times in the last three years."

He added: "This, plus the accompanying training, are some of the reasons why drug related deaths have fallen greater than anywhere else in the UK in the past year."

The Welsh government urged drug users and those associated with them to complete the training, which includes the distribution of Naloxone.

A spokesman added: "Between April 2014 and March 2015 there were 2,785 Take Home Naloxone kits supplied - a 55% rise - to 1,458 people.

"Our harm reduction approach is working - since 2010, drug-related deaths have decreased by 30%, bucking a trend seen in England and Scotland."

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