Just 7% of area’s opiate addicts given life saving medication last year - charity

A seizure of heroin. Picture: PA

A seizure of heroin. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Only seven per cent of Barking and Dagenham’s opiate addicts were given potentially life saving medication last year, a charity has found.

Government advice is councils should be making the medication more widely available to reduce the number of deaths by overdose — but Barking and Dagenham is failing to implement the strategy.

A total of 58 take home naloxone kits, which significantly reduce the risk of death in the event of an overdose, were distributed to addicts in the borough last year.

There were an estimated 861 opiate addicts in the borough according to the last figures released for 2014/15 estimates.

Opiates include heroin and morphine.

“Naloxone can save the life of someone overdosing, is cheap, and has no potential for misuse,” said Zoe Carre, researcher for Release, the charity behind the research.

In 2016, 1,900 people suffered opiate overdoses in the UK in 2016, the most ever recorded. It is four times higher than the 1993 figure.

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Out of the 117 councils that submitted data an average of 12 pc of opiate addicts were given the medication within the last year. Ms Carre added: “It is shocking only 58 take-home naloxone kits were given out in 2016/17. The local authority must do more to prevent opiate overdoses.

“The local authority should scale up the provision of take-home kits and ensure this can be accessed by anyone requesting it, particularly in places like needle syringe programmes.”

A council spokesman said 134 kits were distributed since the end of the financial year, “a massive increase to the figures from last year.” Some also get kits on release from prison, he adds.

“The council is confident all service users, their families and friends are being offered Naloxone kits as part of their recovery and are fully informed of its lifesaving benefits,” he said.

The law was changed in 2015 to allow drugs services commissioned by a councils or the NHS to give out naloxone kits without the need for prescription.

“Heroin-related deaths can also be prevented by the provision of naloxone and all local areas should have appropriate naloxone provision in place,” according to government document The Drug Strategy 2017.